Friday, March 20, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic Rep. Pete Stark of California, a senior member of the House’s tax-writing committee, appears ineligible for a tax break he has received over the last two years by listing a Maryland house as his primary residence.

Records show Stark saved $3,853 in state and county taxes in 2007 and 2008 through a tax break reserved for those whose primary residence is in Maryland. The 77-year-old congressman has lived in the Anne Arundel County waterfront home for decades, but he appears to have received the real estate tax break in just the past couple of years.

The break kicks in when a house’s value increases by more than 10 percent. The credit would be worth about $3,800 this year if he were to receive it.

To get the tax break, homeowners must live in Maryland at least six months of the year, have a Maryland driver’s license, be registered to vote there and file Maryland income taxes.

Stark said he lives in the house for most of the year, but he and his wife, Deborah, both have California driver’s licenses and vote in California. Their state residence is in the San Francisco Bay area city of Fremont.

Maryland changed its law in 2007 so all homeowners must submit an application before they can get the tax credit. Stark said he submitted his application in February.

“I suspect it will be denied to me based on what I had heard from other members, in which case, the tax will go up and I will pay the tax,” Stark said. “End of story.”

Stark, a member of Congress since 1973, serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and is best known for his work on health policy.

Over the years, a few lawmakers living in Maryland have been found to be ineligible for the tax break. Last week, state officials said U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., was not entitled to the credit.

Stark said he owns rental properties in California and is registered to vote at his in-laws’ home there, which ensured that he would not miss mail. He said he is unsure how constituents will view the tax break he has received by listing Maryland as his primary residence but expected to find out at town hall meetings scheduled for this weekend.

“I’ll let you know after my town meeting,” he said. “I guess I don’t think it will make a great deal of difference.”

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