Thurston County fire commissioner pleads guilty to tax fraud

A Thurston County fire commissioner has pleaded guilty to a tax fraud scheme.

Kyle Baxter, 31, a commissioner for the Munn Lake Fire District 15 near Tumwater, was arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

Between 2010 and 2013, Baxter filed tax returns for at least 280 people under an unlicensed operation named “Baxtax,” according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. Many of his clients were fellow firefighters as well as emergency medical technicians and paramedics, the report said.

In several cases, Baxter claimed deductions and credits for clients who were not eligible for those credits, such as child tax credits for clients without children, according to Durkan’s office. Baxter filed returns with distorted numbers that inflated the tax refunds, and Baxter secretly diverted some of this money to himself, the report said.

In total, Baxter stole at least $250,000 in taxpayer money through this scheme, according to the report. Baxter will be sentenced Oct. 3, and faces up to five years in prison.

The Olympian left a message for Baxter at a phone number listed on both the Baxtax website and the November 2013 Thurston County voters pamphlet. Last fall, he ran unopposed and was elected fire commissioner with 178 votes.

Fellow Fire District 15 commissioner Rudy Horton told The Olympian he was unaware of the status of Baxter’s legal case, and that Baxter has not yet resigned.