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Levin Repays Property Tax Credit

Newly anointed House Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-Mich.) repaid a Maryland property-tax credit Friday that he should not have received, his office confirmed.

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.

Chambers referred to public records maintained by Montgomery County, which indicate the Chevy Chase home is a principal residence. Property records available from a Maryland state Web site indicate the property is not used as a principal residence.

Montgomery County property tax records dating to 1999 show that Levin’s home has changed classifications — principal or not principal — four times.

Chambers said the property was designated as a principal residence in 2009, after Levin’s attorneys submitted a revised deed to the county.

“It appears that when Mr. Levin’s lawyers submitted a deed to the County in April 9, 2009 that removed Mrs. Levin’s name from the deed and transferred Mrs. Levin’s share into a trust the County mistakenly changed the record on the property to ‘principal’ residence without request from or notification to Mr. Levin,” Chambers wrote.

She also said that a change-of-address form Levin submitted after he moved to the Silver Spring condo prompted another change to “not a principal residence” in January 2010.

The Chevy Chase home has also received negligible homestead tax credits intended for permanent residents of the state at times during the past 10 years.

Chambers said that Levin repaid homestead taxes several years ago.

“The County has inconsistently classified the property on Morgan Drive,” she wrote. “In April 2006 when Mr. Levin learned of the earlier mis-classifications he repaid the full amount for the Homestead Tax Credit mistakenly applied to the property. We confirmed [Friday] with the Montgomery County Department of Finance the amount repaid was $531.51.”

Levin replaced Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) at the Ways and Means Committee helm this week after pending ethics investigations forced Rangel to step down from the post.

The ethics committee admonished Rangel in February for taking part in two trips to the Caribbean that violated House rules, citing his staff’s knowledge that the trips received prohibited corporate funding.

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the ethics panel, is also still reviewing Rangel’s personal finances under an investigation opened in September 2008.

That review includes Rangel’s failure to report rental income from a Dominican beach house; his lease of three rent-controlled apartments in his district; his use of House parking facilities for long-term vehicle storage; personal assets he failed to report on financial disclosures; and his fundraising efforts for a City College of New York facility named in his honor. Rangel has denied any wrongdoing.

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), the second-ranking Ways and Means Committee member who was passed over for the chairmanship, also recently faced an ethics committee review of his Maryland home.

The committee dismissed allegations that Stark had improperly received a Maryland homestead property tax break.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, which recommended the Stark probe to the ethics committee, also reviewed several other lawmakers who own Maryland homes and had received the same tax break, but did not forward the inquiries to the ethics panel.

A handful of lawmakers also repaid taxes to the District of Columbia in 2009 after Roll Call discovered those Members had nearly $100,000 combined in homestead tax breaks for which they were ineligible. District official attributed the discrepancy to a clerical error, and said the Members had not sought the tax breaks.

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