Frumin tripped up by District homestead deduction

March 19, 2013

D.C. Council candidate Matthew Frumin said Monday he will go back and examine whether he benefited from a resident-based tax break on his Northwest home in 2000, when records show he lived in Michigan most of the year.

Frumin, an attorney seeking an at-large seat in the April 23 special election, purchased a house in American University Park in 1992. But in 2000, Frumin and his wife registered to vote and rented a house in Bloomfield, Mich., so he could run for Congress in his hometown.

During his campaign, Frumin rented his Albermarle Street NW house and continued to collect the homestead deduction on the property, according to officials at the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

The homestead deduction is a tax break for District residents who own a home in the city as a primary residence. Frumin’s deduction saved him $288 that year, officials said.

Frumin acknowledged in an interview that he may have improperly collected the deduction.

“I can assure you, it was an innocent mistake, and if it’s something I should deal with, then I will deal with it,” said Frumin, who is the best-funded candidate in the seven-person race. “If I made a mistake, I made a mistake.”

It’s unclear whether Frumin violated city tax law. According to OCF officials, only residents who paid District income taxes on an owner-occupied property were eligible for the homestead deduction in 2000.

Even though he registered to vote in Michigan in April 2000, Frumin said his wife and children lived in the District house until the end of the school year.

He said the length of their stay in the city may have legally qualified him for the exemption that year. He plans to review his records in the coming days.

“I think I have a pretty solid record of paying my taxes, but if I fell down on that, I fell down on that,” Frumin said.

After he lost his congressional campaign, Frumin switched his residency back to the District in 2001.

Frumin wouldn’t be the first District political figure tripped up over the homestead deduction.

In 2005, The Washington Post reported that Karl Rove, then a senior adviser to former President George W. Bush, had been improperly collecting the deduction on his Palisades house. Rove, whose primary residency was in Texas, agreed to reimburse the city $3,400.

Three years later, the Post reported that U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) also improperly received the deduction from at least 1995 to 2000 on a house he owned in Crestwood.

In Frumin’s case, it is unclear whether a potential $288 tax liability from 13 years ago could derail his campaign.

But the issue could become fodder for Frumin’s opponents, though questions about his taxes pale to those that have been raised about another contender, former council member Michael A. Brown.

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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