Board overturns auditor on homestead deduction violation

2013-09-24T16:30:00Z 2013-09-25T07:25:05Z Board overturns auditor on homestead deduction violationBob Kasarda, (219) 548-4345
September 24, 2013 4:30 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | The county tax appeal board decided Tuesday that Ogden Dunes resident Dorothy Kurtz is entitled to a homestead deduction even though her husband is receiving the same type of tax break on a home in Florida.

Attorney and state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, who represented Kurtz, argued that state law speaks about Indiana alone when it limits these tax breaks to one primary residence.

This was made explicitly clear in 2011, though was intended in years prior, said Tallian, who has served as a state lawmaker since 2005. The Kurtz appeal focused on the period of 2008 to 2010.

Attorney Jon Schmaltz, who represented the county auditor's office during Tuesday's hearing, disagreed and argued the state law limits homestead deductions to one primary residence, no matter how many states are involved.

"I don't think it's ambiguous," he said.

Porter County Auditor Bob Wichlinski, who has led a crackdown on homestead deduction violators, said he regrets that unlike the petitioner in these cases, he does not have the option of appealing the local decision to the state.

"It is not their job to interpret the law," he said of the three-member Porter County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals. "This is a serious misinterpretation of what their responsibility is."

Wichlinski said the board has sided with taxpayers in three of the four appeals concerning homestead deductions and he predicted the number of appeals will increase as he prepares to send out the first round violation notices to owners of 900 multiunit residential buildings. The crackdown on single-family home violations is done.

Attorney Christopher Buckley, who represents the local tax assessment appeals board, said while Tuesday's decision is not binding, he encourages the group to be consistent with its decisions.

The decision means the homestead deduction will be restored for Kurtz for the three-year period in question.

PTBOA members are Nick Sommer, Joe Wszolek and Vicki Urbanik, who also works as full-time budget and finance specialist for the county council, Buckley said.

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