Businessman and former Kansan Gene Bicknell won his 15-year tax dispute with the State of Kansas in a unanimous decision by the state Supreme Court agreeing with him that he was a resident of Florida in 2005 and 2006.
The 90-year-old Pittsburg native paid a $42.5 million judgment in 2017 after an appeals court denied his claim of Florida residence. He labeled it “extortion” in a victory statement, and claims the state owes him more than $63 million now.
The odyssey between the entrepreneur and the state began in 2007 with an audit of his 2005 and 2006 tax returns in which he filed as a Florida resident, having moved there in 2003, and as a non-resident of Kansas. Bicknell had residences in each state. Interestingly, for Bicknell’s case, he had sold his National Pizza Corporation and its 1,100 Pizza Huts to Merrill Lynch in 2006. The Department of Revenue determined Bicknell was a resident of Kansas, not Florida, and owed the state $42.5 million.
What followed were three trials and three appeals or as Bicknell describes it: “500 interrogatories and 15 years of attorney employment” before the author of the entrepreneur’s guide “Never Fry Bacon in the Nude” won his case in Crawford County District Court before a Supreme Court-appointed judge.
That district court victory was a result of a 2014 law that allowed taxpayers with an adverse decision in tax court to receive a trial in district court where new evidence could be presented.
But Bicknell’s victory was short-lived. The DOR appealed and the verdict was overturned, leading to a final appeal, and Bicknell’s ultimate victory, before the Supreme Court.
The state’s case against the colorful magnate, whose website refers to him as a “cattle rancher, veteran, professor, entrepreneur, actor, pilot, politician (he was a candidate for Kansas governor in 1986 and 1994), sports enthusiast, collector, philanthropist, husband, father, grandfather, and friend” had some odd moments as well. In one filing, DOR claimed a swing set Bicknell installed at his Pittsburg home for his grandchildren and a farm cat named “Checkers” who had taken up residence in the house, was proof he was a Kansan.
In a prepared statement following the decision, Bicknell alternated between contempt for the state of Kansas:
”This should have never gotten to court. If the constitutionality had ever been ruled on”
“Lack of funds in the state coffers caused them to find justification for extortion.”
To an attitude of forgiveness:
“I am a Christian man and I hold no malice. I just regret the stress and anger witnessed by me and my wife and associates. I wish the state of Kansas well.”