Kentucky officials strip Ken Ham’s ‘Ark Encounter’ exhibit of its $18 million tax rebate

Ken Ham and his fellow young earth creationists behind Kentucky’s “Ark Encounter” exhibit are locked in a dispute with the county who they claimed would benefit from the attraction.

Earlier this week, the Friendly Atheist‘s Hermant Mehta reported that Williamsburg, Kentucky officials decided to charge the Ark Encounter a $0.50 “safety fee” for each ticket sold, amounting to $700,000 that the Ark Encounter would owe the city each year. But according to Ham and his organization, they should be exempt from the tax since they are a non-profit ministry.

But as Mehta points out, the Ark Encounter “has legally been a for-profit business in order to receive a number of tax incentives from the city and state. … It’s not a church; it’s a money-making tourist attraction.”

Nevertheless, Ham and his cohorts came up with an interesting scheme to avoid the tax.

From the Lexington Herald Leader:

… Ark Encounter LLC sold its main parcel of land — the one with the life-size Noah’s Ark — for $10 to their non-profit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon. Although the property is worth $48 million according to the Grant County Property Valuation Administrator, the deed says its value is only $18.5 million.

That’s the latest salvo in an escalating argument between local officials and Ark Encounter, but some are worried Ark Encounter’s maneuver is a precursor to declaring itself exempt from all taxes, including property taxes that help fund Grant County schools.

But the plan didn’t have its intended effect. On July 18, the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet sent a letter to the Ark Encounter’s lawyers, informing them that as of July 10, they were “in breach of its Tourism Development Agreement… with the Commonwealth.”

“On July 10, 2017, the Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet… became aware of a quit claim deed transferring the Ark Project land, with all the privileges and appurtenances to the same, from Ark Encounter, LLC, a for profit company, to Crosswater Canyon, Inc. a non-profit company,” the letter read.

“We believe that your client is aware that they may not be eligible for state tax incentives if the Ark Project is owned by a non-profit legal entity,” the letter continued. The letter then quoted from the Ark Encounter’s own website where it states the “for-profit LLC structure also allows the Ark Encounter to be eligible for various economic development incentives that would not have been available with a non-profit structure.”

In other words, now that Ham and his affiliates sold the Ark Encounter to a non-profit entity, they are no longer eligible for the tax rebate deal.

“…please be advised that no further incentives may accrue from sales tax imposed on sales generated by or arising at the tourism development project, as of the date of transfer of the property, June 28, 2017,” the letter continued.

Mehta writes:

The Creationists running Ark Encounter just screwed themselves out of $18 million over the next decade because they didn’t want to pay a local safety fee worth about $700,000 a year.

We already knew Creationists were ignorant about science.

Turns out they don’t know how to do math, either.

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Sky Palma

Before launching DeadState back in 2012, Sky Palma has been blogging about politics, social issues and religion for over a decade. He lives in Los Angeles and also enjoys Brazilian jiu jitsu, chess, music and art.