Michael Brown, D.C. Council's advocate for tax increase, owes back taxes on home

Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, January 13, 2011; 10:40 PM

Since joining the D.C. Council two years ago, Michael A. Brown has become the chief advocate for raising taxes on the city's wealthiest residents, arguing that those who earn at least $250,000 a year are not paying their share.

Yet Brown and his wife have failed to pay the property taxes on a Chevy Chase home assessed at $1.4 million, according to public records. Brown, who earns more than $300,000 a year, owes the District $14,263 for property taxes, the records show.

The tax debt, an amount Brown disputes, is part of financial records that raise questions about whether Brown is keeping up with his bills. Since he bought his house in 1996, banks or mortgage lenders have issued five notices of foreclosure sale, according to records. None of the notices has led to a foreclosure sale, and Brown said he did not know that the notices were issued.

"I know nothing about any of them," said Brown (I-At Large), chairman of the council's Housing and Workforce Development Committee.

Brown unsuccessfully pushed his proposal to create two new tax brackets for the wealthy in the spring and in December as the council was cutting human services to help balance the budget. With the city facing another shortfall in next year's budget, Brown has pledged he will lead a similar effort this spring.

Brown said he only recently found out about his unpaid District property taxes.

City records show that Brown's debt to the District has been adding up for the past two years after he failed to pay his full balance in 2009, resulting in a $1,766 shortfall.

Last year, according to the records, Brown did not make either of his payments, adding an additional $12,496 to his bill.

When first contacted by The Washington Post last week, Brown said he was unaware of the unpaid taxes. In a subsequent interview this week, he said he and his wife learned of the debt late last year after they received a notice in the mail.

On Thursday night, Brown said that he had called the Office of Tax Revenue earlier in the day and that the office lowered his bill after he informed workers there that it had failed to account for a primary-residency deduction to which he was entitled. He pledged to pay the bill on Friday.

Brown said he had assumed his property tax payments were being collected and remitted by his mortgage lender.

After he refinanced his home in 2007, Brown said, his bank sold the mortgage to another financial institution. He said he thinks the original owner of his mortgage failed to inform the new lender about the property tax obligations.

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