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Kuster pays property taxes late for three years, offers no explanation

Staff Report
February 05. 2013 3:30PM
U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster's Hopkinton home. (UNION LEADER)

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster offered no explanation Tuesday why, despite having assets worth about $2 million, she and her husband were late on six consecutive property tax payments totaling nearly $40,000 for their Hopkinton home since 2010.

Records show they also failed to make timely 2012 property payments totaling $3,851 on a home in Jackson that they own and rent out.

Kuster's husband walked into Hopkinton tax collector's office Tuesday morning and paid $7,055 in remaining overdue property taxes on their primary home following a report that they have been consistently late in making such payments over the past three years.

Charles Gangel, the Hopkinton town clerk and tax collector, said attorney Bradford Kuster on Tuesday morning personally paid the remaining bill, which consisted of $6,973 for an overdue payment from last year and $82 in interest. He said the Kuster account is now current.

The late payments on the Kuster home at 331 Gould Hill Road coincide with the freshman Democratic House member going from being a full-time to part-time attorney and consultant with the Rath, Young and Pignatelli law firm and Newfound Strategies, LLC, while making two runs for Congress. She lost to Republican Charles Bass in 2010 but then defeated him last year.

Bradford Kuster is in private law practice in Concord.

Gangel noted that none of the past due bills reached the point of being two years late, in which case, he said, a lien would have been filed.

Kuster issued a statement from her Washington office on Tuesday saying the Jackson payment was "en route" and the Hopkinton bill had been paid.

Jackson assistant tax collector Karen Burton said she had not yet received the payment as of Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.

The Kusters were late on their taxes despite having assets, including more than two dozen mutual funds, totaling between $1.8 million and $2.2 million in 2011. That is according to her latest available public personal finance reports, required by federal law and posted on the web site of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

On her personal financial statement, she lists her Jackson home as being worth between $250,001 and $500,000 and as generating between $15,001 and $50,000 in rent income for her in 2011.

She also lists property on Route 3A in Hebron as being worth between $100,001 and $250,000 and says she has a one-third interest in that property "with siblings."

The Hebron property generated between $5,001 and $15,000 in rent income, according to her statement.

Kuster now has begun collecting a congressional salary of about $174,000.

The Kusters reside in the same area as former Gov. John Lynch, whose 11,000-square-foot home is at the top of Gould Hill on Watchtower Road. Lynch could not be reached for comment.

Bradford Kuster did not return a telephone message left with his law partner, and Rep. Kuster's spokesman declined to say why the payments were missed or answer any questions beyond her three-sentence prepared statement:

"Our property taxes are paid in full with interest to the Town of Hopkinton. Payment for our rental property in Jackson is en route. I regret the delay and apologize for any inconvenience. All future tax payments will be delivered promptly."

The Union Leader has requested an interview on the matter with Rep. Kuster.

Tax records for the Hopkinton home and its surrounding 5.7 acres show the Kusters made nine of 10 payments on time from July 1, 2005 through Dec. 15, 2009.

The late payments began with a bill of $6,494 due on July 1, 2010. That bill, plus $42.70 in late payments, were paid on July 21, 2010.

The Kuster's next bill, due Dec. 8, 2010 for $6,436, was paid on Jan. 3, 2011, plus interest.

The $6,460 bill due on July 1, 2011 was not paid until Sept. 22, 2011 and the bill due on Dec. 1, 2011 was not paid until Jan. 11, 2012.

The Kusters did not pay their July 2, 2012 bill for $6,668 by the time their Dec. 31, 2012 bill, totaling $6,973, came due.

As a result, with interest and penalties, they had owed $14,089 in unpaid taxes at the time Rep. Kuster was sworn into office on Jan. 3, 2013.

They paid about half of that outstanding bill on Jan. 8 and then the remainder on Tuesday.

Gangel, Hopkinton Select Board Chairman Jim O'Brien and Jackson assistant tax collector Burton declined comment.

But Republicans wasted little time criticizing Kuster, while Democrats countered by alleging Republican "hypocrisy."

State Republican spokesman Meg Stone said Kuster owes constituents "an honest explanation" on the delinquencies.

"She needs to personally explain why she finally decided to pay her fair share of taxes only after the media started asking her questions about her long history of missed payments," Stone said.

Stone said that since going to Washington, Kuster has "blindly supported" Democratic leadership calls "for more reckless spending increases and taxes hikes that would devastate small businesses. She has even advocated for the implementation of disastrous statewide income tax that would destroy the New Hampshire Advantage."

Stone continued, "Congresswoman Kuster wants working families to pay more taxes, yet she repeatedly failed to pay her own tax bill despite a reported net worth of almost $2 million. Her loyal support for job-killing economic policies raises even more questions about her unwillingness to meet her own tax obligations that must be addressed."

Stone continued, "When times are tough and our neighbors are struggling, people understand. But when your net worth is nearly $2 million and you have established a pattern of non-payment, your constituents deserve an answer."

State Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Horn acknowledged last month while running for the post that she and her husband have federal tax liens totaling $92,184 filed against them by the IRS for 2008 and 2009.

"Like a lot of families across New Hampshire, the recession took a toll on our household," she said at the time. "My husband was under-employed for a period of time and we were forced to make tough decisions, but we have been working with the IRS to resolve this matter as quickly as possible."

State Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said bringing up unpaid taxes is "the last thing" the Horn-led GOP should be doing.

"Unlike the case with Jennifer, the Kusters have sent full payment to both towns," he said. "How much does the newly installed Republican state chair still owe on her taxes? And what about (former U.S. Rep.) Frank Guinta? How much does Frank Guinta still owe on his taxes?

"The hypocrisy of the New Hampshire Republicans has no bounds," Buckley said.

Horn said Tuesday she and her husband continue to make "regular payments" to the IRS.

"I have been honest about the struggles that my family faced after my husband lost his job, and we stepped up on our own to pay our obligations," Horn said.

"Congresswoman Kuster is a millionaire lobbyist-turned-politician who had the means to pay her taxes, but chose not to do so until she was caught red-handed by the media. Her continued refusal to explain to her constituents why she deliberately chose not to pay her taxes raises very serious questions that must be answered," said Horn.

Nate Sillin, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said, "This is disgusting. Millionaire Ann Kuster wants to raise taxes on Granite State families, but she doesn't even pay her own. How can Kuster be trusted to make the rules if she won't even follow them herself?"

Hopkinton Jackson Photo Feature

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