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Smart Talk Aug. 25 

‘Free’ cars Much has been written about the extensive loaner auto programs from which universities around the state benefit, particularly the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. It might interest you to know that UA takes probably the strictest approach to reporting the benefit its employees receive from these loans, thanks to an IRS audit in the mid-1990s when UA was a little looser in its accounting of the value of the cars the coaches get. Now, the UA reports as taxable income the value of the loaner car. The value is taken from the Blue Book, plus tax, title and license fees. This value is placed in an IRS table on annual lease values and that amount is reported as income, even though the coaches receive cars, not cash. Appropriate withholding is made for the benefit. For example, the UA reports this amount in monthly taxable income for a few of the 40 vehicles on loan to the athletic department: Head basketball coach Stan Heath 2004 Expedition $937.50 Head football coach Houston Nutt 2005 Suburban $895.83 2005 Tahoe $854.17 Head track coach John McDonnell 2004 Yukon $729.17 Athletic Director Frank Broyles 2004 LeSabre $604.17 Women’s Athletic Director Bev Lewis 2005 LeSabre $604.17 The cheapest loaner in the house is the 1997 Avalon driven by assistant athletic director for marketing Matt Shanklin, worth $216.67 a month. Good timing Last week, the National Homeless Coalition named Little Rock the meanest city in the whole United States. Its ranking of mean cities was said to be based on a variety of data gathered from 178 communities, but Little Rock’s major offense was a City Hall effort to bust up homeless camps around town. That effort was sidetracked after protests. The same day we learned of that proud ranking, we received our regular bulletin from the Arkansas chapter of the ACLU. Among the many issues on its agenda is investigating a complaint of police harassment of homeless people in Little Rock – confiscating property and chasing them away from places they have a right to be. Meanies, take note. The ACLU is “looking into it.” What’s in a name? The answer to the headline question could be sales, if the name is Asa Hutchinson. At least he hopes so. A news release issued recently by GVI Security Solutions touted its “intelligent video” system for sale to mass transit systems and others. The company says the systems can secure “critical corporate, mass transit, government and infrastructure facilities.” Billions in expenditures could be needed, the company noted, to make the country safe. The company didn’t say it, but we will. Public agencies are looking to the federal Homeland Security Department for grants to pay for such equipment. GVI has you covered there, too. Said the news release: “Asa Hutchinson, the well-known former Under Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), recently joined the GVI Board of Directors in a clear vote of confidence for GVI’s homeland strategy by one of the foremost names in Homeland Security.” If Hutchinson is elected governor, he can work on getting Arkansas agencies to buy his company’s equipment along with working on his former employer to provide the money. Better still, he could get out of the security business and avoid the ill appearance of this shilling.
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