Farmer beefs up diesel citation fight

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Capital Press

Bob W. Engle, the farmer who was fined by the Internal Revenue Service for driving his bale wagon on a public road while fueled with off-road diesel, said he is pressing his appeal.

"I've contacted the taxpayer advocate at the IRS, and I'm waiting to get a date for a conference call," he said.

For the past 12 years, the Whidbey Island, Wash., farmer has been raising hay, replacement heifers and seed crops with his father and uncle on land that has been in the family since the 1850s.

The citation was issued July 26 for Engle's use of dyed diesel in a vehicle on a roadway. Dyed diesel, cheaper than clear diesel because of fewer taxes applied to it, is intended for off-road or farm use.

Engle said he told the IRS inspector that his New Holland bale wagon is used for transporting bales of hay from the field to the haystack. The inspector's response, he said: "I don't think that would qualify."

A week later the inspector assessed a penalty of $9,000 -- $10 per gallon for the farm's 800-gallon diesel storage tank and $1,000 for the fuel in the vehicle.

Engle said he appreciates the letters of support from the Washington State Farm Bureau, other commodity associations and members of Congress, but he didn't know if there has been any response from the IRS to those letters.

In the meantime, he said, "The same inspector was poking his nose around here Monday. I call that the edge of harassment. I told the advocate, and she said she'd put it in the file. ... We will not back down on this."

Scott Dilley, the public policy analyst who wrote the Farm Bureau letter, said he hasn't gotten any response to his letter. He did report that a second farmer, who received a similar citation, decided to switch to clear diesel.

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