Biomass heating companies, which use renewable energy sources like wood, crop waste, or garbage to generate heat, will now come under central assessment in Oregon. Under central assessment, all of a company's property, including its intangible property – e.g. goodwill, trade secrets, and contract rights – is taxable by law. This reclassification will likely result in a significant increase to the amount of property taxes these companies pay.
The reclassification is not the result of a new law passed by the Legislature. It occurred because of a reinterpretation of existing law by the Oregon Department of Revenue in conjunction with the Department of Justice.
The DOR made a similar reclassification to a different group of companies in 2009. At that time, communications companies like Comcast and CenturyLink were targeted. Comcast's taxable value increased an estimated $500 million in a single year due to the reinterpretation. It also resulted in almost a decade of litigation that still isn't finished.
There are some important exceptions to this change. There are also several good reasons to believe that a legal challenge of this particular reclassification may be more successful and, at least, resolve more quickly than Comcast's appeal.