Tarrant County files tax liens on American jets

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by CHRIS HAWES

WFAA

Posted on November 29, 2011 at 11:45 PM

FORT WORTH — American Airlines owes $6.5 million in property taxes to the Tarrant County Tax Assessor/Collector's office.

In the past, American has paid its bill in two parts. They're not late on their bill... yet.

"So far, we have not received their first-half payment and [Wednesday] is the last day," said Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright.

Three weeks ago, with the deadline approaching, Wright became worried over talk of a possible AMR Corp. bankruptcy. So, quietly, he decided Tarrant County would be among the first to stake its claim to American Airlines' property.

"We filed tax liens on 365 of their aircraft," Wright said.

A lien stakes a legal claim to the value of property it targets, making it difficult for an owner to sell the property without first paying off the debt.

The move was a kind of insurance against a bankruptcy filing, in which some bills may never be fully paid.

"What that does is, it will move us up in their priorities of payments for the bankruptcy court," Wright said.

As it turns out, Wright's attorneys are not the only ones to lay claim to the aircraft.

Grapevine-Colleyville ISD told News 8 it recently filed liens on American Airlines planes as well. American Airlines is the district's largest taxpayer, with a 2011 tax bill of $5.09 million.

American Airlines is headquartered in Fort Worth. Mayor Betsy Price said American has no outstanding debts to the city.

"American is a huge piece of what we do in Fort Worth," Price said. "It's one of our largest employers and one of our biggest taxpayers. They are probably our biggest corporate citizen here."

It's important to note that American is not behind in its property tax payments. The liens taken out against the planes were described as a "precautionary measure."

E-mail chawes@wfaa.com

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