D.C. seizes rights to house of city’s ‘top delinquent taxpayer’

In a warning to those who owe the District, authorities seized a Chevy Chase man’s rights to his house because he allegedly owes more than $17 million in back city taxes.

The action, completed Friday, comes as city officials say Barry A. Morewitz failed to pay his share in income taxes from 2004 through 2009.

Morewitz owes more than $8 million in back taxes and $8.9 million in interest and penalties, according to liens issued against him. The Office of Tax Revenue has billed Morewitz as the city’s “top delinquent taxpayer,” noting that no other resident owes even $1 million in back taxes.

City officials declined to comment Monday on the circumstances surrounding Morewitz’s bill, citing confidentiality requirements. But in a statement issued Monday, the Office of Tax Revenue said it had seized his interest in his house in the 3900 block of Military Road NW.

“We have taken this action after our earlier attempts to resolve this outstanding tax matter were ignored,” said Stephen M. Cordi, the office’s deputy chief financial officer.

Reached by phone Monday evening, Morewitz said he would have to call back to give his side of the story, but he did not return the call.

According to property records, Morewitz house has an assessed value of $774,000.

David Umansky, a spokesman for the office of the chief financial officer, said the legal action does not mean that Morewitz must immediately leave his house. Instead, Umansky said, the city is entitled to the proceeds if Morewitz sells his property. The city also has the right to seize the property at any time.

According to city officials, the District periodically seizes property when “multiple collection attempts fail.” In a statement announcing the action against Morewitz, the city urged people who owe back taxes to file “missing returns immediately” and “pay any liability due.”

Morewitz’s tax troubles have apparently been building for years. According to a copy of a lien against him, Morewitz owes about $2.6 million in back income taxes, penalties and interest that were due in 2004.

The next year, Morewitz allegedly failed to pay about $3.4 million in income taxes, resulting in what is now $7.4 million, including interest and penalties, according to the document. He also has seven-figure tax bills for 2006 and 2007, and owes $617,000, including penalties and fees, for 2008 and 2009.

The next top alleged offender on the city’s “delinquent taxpayer list” owes $856,439 in back taxes.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.

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