QUEEN CREEK, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – Aidan Galaska was the athlete, while his brother Cole was the next crocodile hunter, according to their parents, Laura and Richard Galaska, who proudly pointed to their ginger boys in a family photo. “Several years ago we were a happy family of four,” Laura said.
In an instant, an unimaginable instant in 2013 on a highway in Arizona, everything changed. “It was a horrible car accident that our family was in,” Laura said. “Our 12-year-old son, Cole, was killed.”
Aidan, who was nine at the time, suffered a life-altering head injury. “He was 100% dependent on others for his care. He had no use for his body,” Laura said. “Caregivers at night, nurses during the day and parents around the clock.”
Aidan needed an accessible home. “It was still a two-story juggling act,” Richard said. So the couple hired a contractor and started building. “There would never have been a room or an area of the house or even the yard that Aidan couldn’t reach,” Laura said.
Months of work turned into almost two years of construction and costs skyrocketed. The Galaskas ended up going over budget by almost 40%. “It would have taken every dollar we had for the rest of our son’s life,” Laura said. The family faced skyrocketing bills for construction and for Aidan’s recovery. The researchers said Aidan had a high level of cognitive ability and the family would need the money to be able to make quick decisions about his care.
“It was the catalyst to do everything we could to give him the communication skills to get his needs, his wants, his hopes, his dreams, his ideas out into the world instead of being stuck in his own body. “, said Laura. . The Galaskas were forced to sell the house before they could even move in.
“I know it would seem like a very difficult decision. I would say it was a very easy decision for us,” Laura added. “A house is just a house. Our son is everything, and we would rather lose money on a house and get rid of it so we can conserve resources to continue caring for him.” In July 2021, months after the sale, a letter arrived from the town of Queen Creek.
“We fly thinking this chapter of our lives is over, and we recover financially, and then a tax bill comes along, just piling more on an already bad situation,” Richard said.
According to the letter, because the Galaskas sold the house before moving in, they are considered speculative builders and subject to taxes on the sale of the house. “It’s tens of thousands,” Richard estimated, “north of $50,000.”
There is an audit process, but some of the couple’s documents don’t seem applicable to their situation. “The intention is that the people selling it will make a profit. Our intention was to move in and take care of a disabled son,” Richard said. “We tried to tell them that we had actually lost a lot of money. In fact, we had to go out because we were upside down on the house. They nodded and said, ‘Yeah, but you still built a house in our town, and you owe us money.'”
Constance Halonen-Wilson, spokeswoman for Queen Creek, said in a statement to 3 On Your Side: “The city has had multiple contacts with the family to explain that the speculative tax on the builders involved is not being collected. by the city and that such sales tax laws are established and administered by the State of Arizona, not the city. Tax is paid directly to the state, and any changes or exceptions would be administered by the Department of Arizona Revenue. The city has no discretion or ability to alter the tax at issue in this case.”
Rebecca Wilder, spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue, said she was unable to discuss a specific scenario. She highlighted the fact that the speculative builder tax is a municipal-level tax, adding, “While DOR respects efforts of municipalities, cities initiate enforcement of their own taxes, DOR provides final approval. and oversight of any tax enforcement action.”
“They have the latitude to cancel an audit and say, ‘Not this family. Not this time,'” Richard said. According to Halonen-Wilson, a formal assessment has not been issued, but she said the auditor required more documentation from the family to determine if the speculative builder tax applied.
“Once documentation is received, IF an assessment is issued and the family believes it is being assessed in error, the family can appeal,” Halonen-Wilson told 3 On Your Side. “It depends on what’s right and what’s wrong, and that’s absolutely wrong,” Laura said. Galaskas’ son Aidan died in January. He was 18 years old.
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