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August 20. 2014 8:27PM

Maryland to GOP candidate: You have 30 days to pay taxes

CONCORD — The state of Maryland is attempting to collect back taxes it says are owed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein, according to the head of that state’s tax department.

Havenstein received nearly $9,000 in combined tax credits from 2006 through 2011 by claiming he was eligible for the homestead tax credit, in which homeowners must claim a Maryland home as their primary residence, said Robert E. Young, director of Maryland’s Assessment and Taxation Department.

“The state of Maryland has determined, based on (Havenstein’s statements) that he was not a resident of Maryland and is a resident of (New Hampshire), he is not entitled to those tax credits,” Young said Wednesday night.

Young said Havenstein has 30 days to pay the bill without facing interest or penalties.

Havenstein’s campaign called the bill a politically motivated attack.

“The Havensteins received bills from a tax office with no explanation for them,” Havenstein campaign spokesman Henry Goodwin said in a statement. “That the state of Maryland has given information to news outlets that was withheld from the Havensteins should be deeply troubling to all taxpayers.”

“If the intent of the tax office was simply to settle this matter, they would have provided an explanation. The fact that they instead leaked it to the media suggests that their motivation was political,” Goodwin said.

Young said his office received a request to look into the matter from the government of Montgomery County in Maryland, where Havenstein lived from 2007 until selling his home in 2012.

“They are zealous in maintaining their property tax base,” he said.

He said his office receives “thousands” of requests each year to look into homestead requirements, as members of Congress are frequently scrutinized to see if they accepted homestead credits in Maryland while still claiming their home states as primary residences. He said only those claiming Maryland as a primary residence may claim the homestead tax credits.

“Not as far as my office was concerned was this political in nature,” Young said. To qualify for the credit, a home in Maryland “must be your one, primary residence where you reside for more than six months in one year.”

Havenstein was criticized Wednesday by the New Hampshire Democratic Party, which early in Havenstein’s campaign chided him for accepting tax breaks reserved for residents of Maryland, while he was the chief executive of two national defense contractors, by claiming the state as his primary residence until 2012.

“It has always been clear that failed CEO Walt Havenstein was either ineligible to run for governor of New Hampshire or misled Maryland on his taxes,” NHDP spokesman Bryan Lesswing said in a statement.

Havenstein argued that he always intended to remain a New Hampshire resident. The Ballot Law Commission ruled 3-2 to uphold Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s decision to accept his filing to run for governor.

Former Gov. John H Sununu, in the campaign’s release, called the bill an attack orchestrated by Democrats, pointing out that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is a Democrat.

“That the Democrats are willing to use a gross abuse of power to attack Walt is despicable,” Sununu said in the statement.

But the campaign of Andrew Hemingway, Havenstein’s opponent in next month’s Republican primary, said the bill is another indication that Havenstein was either not eligible to run for governor or was improperly accepting tax breaks in Maryland.

“He couldn’t have it both ways,” Hemingway campaign spokesperson Alicia Preston said. “This is further a demonstration that there is too much baggage and ammunition for the Democrats to use against him in November if he were to be the nominee. The Republicans deserve the right for a chance at the corner office and someone who has to do nothing but defend himself repeatedly, can’t provide that chance.”

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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