- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2012

The D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue is demanding $2,338 in back property taxes, interest and penalties from Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, who wrongly claimed a homestead tax deduction on his Capitol Hill townhouse reserved for D.C. homeowners who claim their property as their “principal residence.”

City tax officials, saying the West Virginia Democrat is not entitled to the annual deduction that saves D.C. homeowners $573 a year, sent him a corrected tax bill for 2010 through 2012, seeking the unpaid taxes as well as $617 in interest and penalties. The payment is due by Jan. 7.

The tax office began looking at Mr. Rahall’s deduction after The Washington Times reported in October that he was the only lawmaker among 107 in Congress who owned property in the District to claim a homestead deduction.

“Our determination was that property owner did not qualify for homeowner’s deduction and as a result the deduction was removed for the past three years,” said Natalie Wilson, spokeswoman for the tax office. She said Mr. Rahall can appeal the ruling.

A tax office memorandum says a member of Congress who owns a house in the District but maintains a residence in his home state where he votes “cannot claim the District’s homestead deduction.” The memo describes the member’s principal residence as the house in the area the lawmaker represents.

Mr. Rahall has taken a homestead deduction on his District townhouse since he bought it in 2004 even though he has owned a 10-room house in Beckley, W.Va., in his congressional district since 1995 and votes in West Virginia. He also enjoys a reduced owner-occupied tax rate on his West Virginia home, which cut his state property tax bill this year by $2,874, records show.

The Raleigh County, W.Va., assessor’s office taxes that home at the lower owner-occupied rate — half the rate for houses not occupied by the owner.

Mr. Rahall initially said during a telephone interview in October that he did not know if he had claimed the homestead deduction on the D.C. townhouse, telling a reporter to check with his accountant but hanging up before giving the accountant’s name.

His spokeswoman, Diane Luensmann, did not respond to telephone and email messages seeking comment for this story.

The lawmaker purchased the D.C. townhouse in August 2004 for $741,115, according to city tax records. The townhouse is now worth $890,320.

In the November election, Mr. Rahall, first elected to the House in 1976, beat his Republican opponent, Rick Snuffer, a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, by a margin of 54 to 46 percent.

• Chuck Neubauer can be reached at cneubauer@washingtontimes.com.

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