Sunday, March 07, 2010

New House Ways and Means Committee Head Has Tax Troubles of His Own

When Democrat Charles Rangel "temporarily" stepped down from the chairmanship the House Ways and Means Committee amid the longstanding and mounting ethics probes and investigations into his tax, legal and ethics troubles, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrats tapped Democrat Sander Levin of Michigan to fill the seat.

Well, it turns out that Levin had tax troubles of his own that only were repaid following an inquiry by Roll Call.

Like so many other politicians, including Rangel, Levin took a tax credit for real estate properties that he should not have been qualified to take.
Levin, who owns a home in Chevy Chase, Md., received a $690 credit on his most recent property tax bill, the result of Montgomery County program that provided one-time credits to residential property owners in the 2009-10 tax year.

Levin, who purchased the home in 1977, received the tax credit although it was intended for only “owner-occupied” properties, and he does not live in the home. The credit reduced his tax bill to just under $9,500.

“This is not a tax credit that Rep. Levin applied for and in an abundance of caution he has paid the full amount to Montgomery County to correct their mistake,” Levin Chief of Staff Hilarie Chambers wrote in an e-mail Friday.

Chambers said the Michigan lawmaker moved out of the home in September 2008, following the death of his wife. His daughter and her family now occupy the home, and he stays at a Silver Spring condominium owned by his daughter when he is in the Washington, D.C. area.

Levin repaid the credit Friday, Chambers said, after being contacted by Roll Call.

“Since Mr. Levin was not residing in the property for the full year and it is not his ‘principal residence,’ Mr. Levin has written a check of $690 to the County and clarified and confirmed once again to them that the correct classification of the Morgan Drive property is ‘Not a Principal Residence,’” Chambers wrote in an e-mail.
The status on that property had been changed multiple times, despite the fact that he has not been in that property as his principal residence since 2008 and it is for that period going forward for which he claimed and received the credit.

It is unlikely that he could have obtained the credit as his staffer suggests because you have to fill in the tax information; it doesn't just magically appear as a tax credit. Levin would have been better served to state that there was an inconsistency on his tax records and that he's paid up.

Once again, that a major player on the House Ways and Means Committee has problems paying accurate taxes shows the insanity of the tax code at all levels of government and that those responsible for writing the national tax code are incapable of fulfilling their obligations to pay taxes without error or omission.

In Rangel's case, such tax evasion went on for years at a time and should be considered criminal. Levin's case was likely a case of mistaken classification and at this point considered a one-time issue. However, if more instances of tax troubles come up, Levin's stint as the chair will not last long.

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