Md. Officials Review Exemption Status of California Lawmaker's Anne Arundel Home

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 20, 2009

Maryland officials are considering revoking a property tax exemption for a California congressman, a member of a House tax-writing committee who says his principal residence is in Maryland.

C. John Sullivan Jr., director of the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, confirmed yesterday that officials are examining the property tax bill of Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who claimed his Anne Arundel County home as his principal residence and until recently was able to have his property taxes reduced. But under recent changes in Maryland law, homeowners can claim a "homestead exemption" only if they hold a Maryland driver's license or state identification card and pay state income taxes.

Although Stark pays income taxes in Maryland and California, his driver's license is from California, where he is registered to vote and rents a residence in his home district near San Francisco.

Formerly, Maryland residents could qualify for the tax break if they showed they paid state income taxes or had either state driver's license or identification card.

Stark's homestead exemption was first reported yesterday by Bloomberg News. The congressman is the second-ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee and chairs its health subcommittee, which writes tax legislation affecting health care.

Stark said yesterday that he expected Maryland to reject his application for a homestead exemption. "From what I hear from everybody, it will be denied and my taxes will go up," he said. He said he expects his $12,500 annual property tax bill to increase by about $3,000.

Last week, Montgomery County officials said they had withdrawn an exemption for Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who had claimed his Potomac home as his principal residence until the change in Maryland law made him ineligible this year, said Roberta Ward, who manages the homestead exemption for the county.

Engel rents a residence in the Bronx and represents a district that includes the Bronx and several suburbs north of Manhattan. His Montgomery property tax bill will be about $9,900, without the homestead credit of about $1,800 a year.

Engel spokesman Jeremy Tomasulo said that Engel planned to do whatever Montgomery requires.

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