No good deed goes unpunished, the saying goes, and so it was for a Texas pilot.
Wording in the Texas tax code had unintended consequences for the pilot who volunteered his time, loaded up his aircraft with water, and helped put out a grass fire. His unexpected thanks: a tax bill.
A bill in the Texas legislature now aims to correct the tax quirk that exempts aircraft exclusively used for one particular type of agricultural or horticultural activity, but not for an aircraft that is used for multiple purposes. In this case, the pilot had an exemption for agricultural spraying but then lost his tax exemption by using his agricultural aircraft to offer assistance with the grass fire—a different category according to the Texas code.
“Here he was doing the act of a Good Samaritan, let’s not punish him,” said State Rep. Joe Heflin, the House sponsor of the bill. He added that many ag pilots in his district—which includes the Good Samaritan pilot who lost his tax exemption—are actively involved in helping the community.
The bill, backed by AOPA and the Texas Agricultural Aviation Association, would clarify that aircraft are still tax exempt when used for multiple services—including forest containment, agricultural spraying, seeding, and, of course, fire-fighting. State Sen. Kel Seliger, a pilot and AOPA member, expressed his support for these critical aviation operations and the bill, which he said benefits “both agriculture and aviation, which mutually support the economy in Texas and in many other states.”