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Friday, December 19, 2014, 4:48 p.m.
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Asa's taxing situation

By John Brummett

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 3:49 a.m.

John Brummett is blogging daily online.

If Asa Hutchinson could take two, then you ought to be able to take at least one.

Let's see if something good for regular folks can't come from this political imbroglio.

I'm talking about a homestead property-tax exemption of $350 a year on your principal place of residence, provided you own it or are buying it.

This credit has been provided to homeowners in Arkansas since enactment of Amendment 79 in 2000. Well, actually, it was a $300 credit in the beginning, then raised.

The money gets reimbursed to counties through a fund established for that purpose in the state treasurer's office. That fund gets fed each year by a half-cent state sales tax, and it carries over excess proceeds every year.

The heck of it is that homeowners aren't granted the credit automatically, nor are they officially advised as to its availability. They must know of it themselves and affirmatively ask for it.

That's unless, let's say, they bought a home after 2000 and their assessor provided notification as part of the deal-closing or ownership-recording process.

So if you own your home and aren't sure whether you're getting the credit, take this opportunity of Mr. Hutchinson's political troubles to check with your county assessor.

You may have just won $350.


Those political troubles for Asa, reported on the front page three times now, stem from the fact that he took a homestead credit on his home in Benton County, then bought a condo in Little Rock and took another homestead credit.

None for you unless you ask, but two for him.

That's not right. That's not fair.

So then Asa, gearing up to run for governor, somehow came to be aware of his double-dip. So he came in and paid up in Pulaski County, though only for three years, not four.

He escaped a legally mandated penalty equal to the amount of improperly taken credit. The guy in the assessor's office didn't impose the fine though he now says he should have.

So then Asa, trying to put out the political fire, paid for an additional year and a voluntary fine equal to the sum of the credit over four years.

Hutchinson first told this newspaper that the second credit must have been extended automatically, which is precisely not what the law provides. But then the reporter got hold of his signed application for it, and Asa said, well, shoot, I'm not sure how or why I did that.

What he did--just to make this clear--was sign a document helping himself to a second credit on his second home in which he attested that his second home was his primary home, though he was already receiving his only legally permitted credit on his actual primary home.

So there's this development: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross' campaign responded to his front-page news article by putting out a statement calling Hutchinson a tax cheat.

I winced.

Maybe Asa, being a man of such prominence and important activity, simply breezed in one day and signed a bunch of documents handed him by an accountant or somebody. I do not believe he was hard-up for $350.

Are you satisfied by that? Are you willing to give Hutchinson a hall pass?

I'm not, even if "cheat" seems a little ... oh, harsh.

We are responsible for our own taxes. All of us are.

We are responsible for the legal documents we sign. All of us are.

We are responsible for knowing the law. All of us are.

That would especially apply, or so it seems, to a lawyer and nationally known political figure who has served in Congress and high echelons of the George W. Bush administration.

I have enough faith in many of you to believe you would have managed not to take two homestead property-tax credits.

And I hold that faith in you even as you express no interest in running for governor, by which you might have sensed a need to cover your backside.

Asa's response to Ross has been to fight back.

He says he came in voluntarily to pay his improperly credited taxes and yet Ross wants to slander and fine him for that good deed. He says it follows that Ross would be a terror as governor, using the taxing power of government abusively.

Actually, it suggests more logically that Ross is running for governor against a guy who got found out on the front page to have improperly taken a tax credit on two homes in a state where regular folks have trouble keeping up one.

Are we really supposed to give Asa kudos for paying his taxes late after illegally getting out of them for four years?

Let's tell the IRS we'll see them to settle up in 2018.

I wouldn't use the word "cheat." I'd merely encourage people to consider the facts.

And I'd encourage them as well to check with their assessor on whether they might save themselves $350.

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John Brummett's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his blog at brummett.arkansasonline.com, or his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 07/31/2014

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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 total comments

Populist says... July 31, 2014 at 6:57 a.m.

We live in a world of too many forms and too much bureaucracy. The man made a MINOR mistake as do we all from time to time. Many lawyers and judges have paid their bar dues late. It is quite natural that one would simply pay the county assessors bill without even thinking that it contained a deduction for a homestead exemption and without thinking that the law provides you may only have one of them even though you reside in two places. I expect that Asa pays more than 6 figures in taxes a year. Give him a break. You are too much the Mike Ross cheerleader. I don't know why you like him so much.

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drs01 says... July 31, 2014 at 7:23 a.m.

JB's nitpicking weekly column. Maybe he should scour the paper for those you are late with their personal property and real estate taxes. He might find some more people he can demonize. Arkansas is in the top 10 for the number of persons who have overdue accounts, so JB will have a very substantial number of candidates. Maybe he can find a few more Republicans he can report. He obviously he would exclude the Democrats.

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PatWaverly says... July 31, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.

Oh the humanity! He took a $350 credit he wasn't entitled to and he isn't a member of the Farm Bureau. Asa Hutchison may in fact be the Anti-Christ. What's next JB? He has an unpaid parking ticket and doesn't like Bradley County Tomatoes? Like I said previous, if this is the best/worst that the you and the Arkansas Democrat Party can dredge up then I believe it's going to be a long election night for the Old Yeller Dogs.

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WGT says... August 1, 2014 at 7:45 a.m.

Thank you John. Wrong is wrong no matter the person or "party". Ignorance of the law is no excuse, or, defense. Good call. Rightly opined and stated. Three hundred fifty dollars, often, is a lot of money to some. People of Mr. Hutchinson' and Mr. Ross', "stature", are able to better afford little known public advantages.

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dildel says... August 1, 2014 at 9:51 a.m.

Thanks John for all that you do. I sure hope you have brought attention to the pig farm and the ineptness of Ms. Marks who should be doing a better job of looking out for our environmental quality with your past writings Hopefully this editorial will make some folks aware of savings on their taxes they have been unaware of. I sure hope Ol' Asa just made an honest mistake ,one of a few since he forgot his ID when he tried to vote and had to have a lackey retrieve it for him, he does not know what organizations he belongs to,. Farm Bureau and now this. I also feel that if Gov. he will be thinking he knows what is best for the citizens instead of what they want just like our present A.G. Asa's stance on PreK and other ideas relating to his prior time in the Federal gov. will not be good for the state.

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