Del. Keith E. Haynes informed the Howard County Department of Finance yesterday that he was returning five years of property tax discounts he improperly received under the Homestead Tax Credit program.
Haynes was one of several legislators identified in a Sunday Sun article as getting tax breaks for "principal residences" in which they did not live, or for having multiple properties designated as primary residences. The Baltimore Democrat got tax breaks for a Columbia home he owns because it was listed as his principal residence. He says he has not lived there since joining the General Assembly in 2003 and was unaware he was receiving the tax breaks.
"I have enclosed certified funds for each year that the Homestead Tax Credit was applied ... covering the years of 2003 to 2008 as a total repayment of the tax credit," Haynes wrote in a letter to Howard County finance director Cathy King. The letter, which was obtained by The Sun, does not specify the amount Haynes returned to the county. He did not immediately return phone calls last night.
In an attempt to prevent Maryland homeowners from violating the tax discount program - designed to protect owner-occupants from being priced out of their homes by rapidly rising property tax assessments - the General Assembly unanimously passed a law in 2007 requiring all homeowners to formally reapply for the tax break.
In the letter to county officials, Haynes emphasized that he would not apply for the credit on his Columbia home: "I will not be requesting the tax credit for this property since I am domiciled in Baltimore."