Saturday, August 20, 2011

Indiana Government Officials Faces Questions Over 'Double Homestead' Exemption Claims

In South Bend, Indiana, the South Bend Tribune reports:
  • South Bend's executive director of community and economic development, Jeff Gibney, claimed a homestead exemption on two separate properties in 2009 and 2010, according to information obtained by The Tribune.


  • The exemptions applied in each case to a home on West Washington Street in South Bend and a condo on Columbia Avenue, in Rogers Park, in Chicago, according to St. Joseph and Cook county property tax records.In both Indiana and Illinois, a property owner is allowed to claim one exemption but no more, not even outside of the state. It must be applied to the person’s primary residence.


  • I’m not trying to cheat anybody at all,” Gibney said Friday. “I just didn’t know that I couldn’t do it (claim an exemption) in two states.(1)

***

  • Gibney said he had rented a place in Chicago for about 15 years before buying the condo in 2008. His children attended school in the city and he visited on weekends. His primary residence is South Bend, he said.


  • I have to tell you, it never crossed my mind,” he said of the fact that he could not claim an exemption on both the Chicago and South Bend properties. “There is nothing intentional about me taking two credits. I just didn’t know that I couldn’t do that.”

***

  • Earlier this year, the county signed a contract with SRI, a consultant to local governments on property tax matters. Utilizing the Homestead Verification Forms, the company collects on invalid exemptions in the county on the county’s behalf. It receives 20 percent of all taxes, penalties and fees for doing so.


  • According to [county auditor Pete] Mullen, as of June 31, the county, in partnership with SRI, had collected $475,920 in back taxes related to invalid homestead exemptions. In addition, collection notices had been sent to a number of other property owners, he said, totaling $130,235.

For the story, see City official claims two homesteads.

(1) While it may be apparent that one person can't claim two homestead exemptions for separate homes, it isn't unheard of, and certainly nothing illegal, for a husband and wife to each make a homstead exemption claim on separate homes if such a claim is bona fide and made in good faith. For instance, and notwithstanding any 'BS' from a government official to the contrary, such is the case in Florida (of course, nothing stops the official with the authority to grant such a homestead exemption to willfully withhold a proper grant, forcing the homeowner to file a lawsuit that, even if successful, will be costly). See:

  • Florida Administrative Code Rule 12D-7.007(7): "A married woman and her husband may establish separate permanent residences without showing “impelling reasons” or “just ground” for doing so.

    If it is determined by the property appraiser that separate permanent residences and separate “family units” have been established by the husband and wife, and they are otherwise qualified, each may be granted homestead exemption from ad valorem taxation under Article VII, Section 6, 1968 State Constitution.

    The fact that both residences may be owned by both husband and wife as tenants by the entireties will not defeat the grant of homestead ad valorem tax exemption to the permanent residence of each."

  • Florida Attorney General Opinion AGO 75-146 (1975), Husband And Wife Maintaining Separate Residences May Both Qualify For Homestead Exemption;

  • Florida Attorney General Opinion AGO 2005-60 (2005), Homestead Exemption -- separate residences and homestead exemption. Art. VII, s. 6, Fla. Const.

  • Wells v. Haldeos, 48 So.3d 85 (Fla. App. 2d DCA, October 22, 2010).

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