Columbia will receive almost $54 million as the result of a legal battle between the city and CenturyLink.

The lawsuit was filed by the cities of Columbia and Joplin against Spectra Communications Group for unpaid and underpaid business license taxes going back to 2007. St. Louis County Circuit Judge Ellen H. Ribaudo ruled June 3 that CenturyLink will pay Columbia $53.8 million. That money is a combination of the business license taxes, interest, penalties and lawyer fees, according to a news release from the law firm that represented the cities. Columbia will also keep $2.3 million of business license taxes that CenturyLink “paid under protest.”

Joplin will receive $1.1 million.

David Streubel, the attorney for the two cities, said in the release that the cities are thrilled.

“Recovering this money that should have been paid to the cities over the last 14 years will make a real difference to those communities,” Streubel said.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2014, the Missourian has reported. Columbia and Joplin both named Spectra Communications Group, a telephone company owned by CenturyLink, in a lawsuit claiming the company owed millions of dollars in taxes. The company argued that the local business taxes should not apply to some of the company’s services.

In June of last year, the court ordered CenturyLink to pay the cities what they were owed in a summary judgment. As part of the summary, the cities were to provide an estimated amount of the money owed and the reasons behind the amount.

Attorneys for Columbia told the court that CenturyLink owed about $38 million in unpaid license taxes, plus a 5% penalty for the failure to pay the full amount. They also argued that an additional $11.8 million was owed due to interest accrued over the years.

Lawyers representing CenturyLink wrote in a brief last October that the cities were pursuing damages that were “exorbitant” and “unwarranted.” The brief stated that Columbia and Joplin were overreaching and “should recover nothing.”

Columbia collects a 7% tax on the gross receipts of utility companies and a 5% tax on gross receipts of cable TV providers. These taxes fall under state law, the Missourian reported.

  • I am a summer 2021 reporter and an undergraduate student studying journalism at Mizzou. I was born and raised in mid-Missouri and have a passion for writing. I can be contacted at 19anaughton@gmail.com

  • Assistant city editor, grad student studying investigative reporting and photojournalism. You can reach me at cjmx5d@umsystem.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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