Could another Arkansas politician end up in hot water over homestead tax credits? Remember, Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson improperly claimed homestead property tax exemptions in two counties for four years — 2008 through 2011 — though state law limits you to one $350 exemption. The Blue Hog Report blog (which has a history of breaking stories that turn out to be headaches for Arkansas Republicans) has done some digging and it appears that Secretary of State Mark Martin took the homestead exemption on both a house in Rogers and a house in Praire Grove, at least since 2008 and possibly as far back as 2003. Here’s Blue Hog burrowing into all the details.
Blue Hog looked at tax records back to 2008 (available online). If Martin has improperly taken homestead credits since 2008, that would amount to $2,100 in improper homestead credits — or $3,850 if he’s done the same thing since he first purchased the homes in 2003. The penalty and repayment only legally applies three years back, so Martin would only be on the hook for repaying $1,050 in credits, plus a penalty of $1,050. Hutchinson repaid his debt in full after his improper claims were reported by the D-G’s Mike Wickline. If Martin has indeed illegally claimed exemptions, will he follow suit?
Here’s the backstory, as reported by Blue Hog: Martin and his wife entered a mortgage in April of 2003 for a house in Rogers, then entered a mortgage for a second house in Praire Grove in August of that year. Both mortgages include clauses that the property is the borrower’s “principal residence” and will continue be the principal residence for a year (boilerplate language for mortgages). The Martins appear to have knowingly been in obvious violation of their mortgage agreement when they bought a second home with the same primary-residence clause months after the first one. Oops. This could have theoretically gotten the Martins in hot water with their lender, but the point here is that Martin presented each house as a primary residence, illegally claiming a homestead exemption on both.
Wickline, by the way, had a story in the paper last weekend suggesting that illegal use of the homestead tax credit costs the state millions per year.
UPDATE: Martin’s spokesperson responded to my queries in an e-mail: “The Secretary of State’s office does not respond to issues that are not office related.”