Democratic candidate for Jolly's seat had two homestead exemptions in D.C., Maryland

The Democrat running for Congress had dual homestead exemptions.
Published July 8 2015
Updated July 9 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — Since last year, Eric Lynn, the lone announced Democratic candidate running to replace David Jolly in Congress, had separate homestead exemptions for properties in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, a double tax break that violates the laws of both jurisdictions.

The D.C.-based Office of Tax and Revenue lists Lynn as having a homestead exemption for a condo near Dupont Circle that he bought for nearly $700,000 in 2007, according to the office's records. The exemption saved him $606.90 in 2015 property taxes, records show.

Yet until this week, Maryland's department of assessments and taxation listed another home in Rockville as his primary home, allowing him to save another $692 in 2014 property taxes, records show. The Lynns paid $715,000 for the home in September 2013.

The problem? A homeowner can qualify for only one exemption.

According to the Lynn campaign, it's all a misunderstanding. Because of dueling taxing schedules, there was just one year Lynn had two homestead exemptions, his campaign says.

Only after his campaign was contacted by the Tampa Bay Times did Lynn refund $606.90 to the D.C. tax office on Wednesday, blaming the office for not properly processing his 2014 request to have the exemption removed.

"If the D.C. government screwed this up and gave us something we didn't deserve, we're certainly willing to make this whole," he said shortly before making the refund.

Lynn provided the Times with business tax returns he said were mailed to the D.C. agency in 2013. Those documents are inconclusive, however, in proving that Lynn tried to remove his exemption.

An official in the D.C. tax office told the Times on Wednesday, before the refund was paid, that no one had applied to remove the homestead exemption.

Unlike the Washington, D.C., tax break, Lynn says he deserved the $692 Maryland tax break, at least for the 2014 tax year. He only lived in the Maryland home for three months that year, which typically would make him ineligible. But Lynn contends he should get the break anyway because he lived in the house for nine months during the prior tax year.

"He did not receive the deduction more than he deserved it, regardless of when Montgomery County granted it," said Bill Burton, a campaign aide, in an email.

After the Times first contacted Lynn's campaign Tuesday, his wife, Tracy, contacted the Maryland agency to remove the tax credit on the couple's four-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,551-square-foot home in Rockville.

"We're not living there," Eric Lynn said. "We're not going to take a homestead exemption on somewhere we're not living."

Lynn, 37, grew up in Seminole and attended St. Petersburg High. He returned to live in St. Petersburg for most of two years before going to work on President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign as a Middle East policy adviser. Lynn then worked in D.C. for six years as a senior adviser in the U.S. Defense Department.

He moved back to his hometown of St. Petersburg in late September. He lives on 20th Avenue near his old high school in a rental home while he and his wife search for a house to buy. He announced his candidacy in April and recently released a preliminary fundraising haul of more than $400,000.

St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice had considered running against Lynn, but decided to skip the race last week. Former Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern has said that she plans to run.

Until this week, Lynn's campaign was an encouraging sign for Democrats craving a viable candidate in Florida's 13th congressional district, which includes western and northern St. Petersburg, to challenge Jolly. Last year, Ed Jany dropped out of the race after questions were raised about the truthfulness of his resume. Earlier, local Democrats had warned the Rev. Manuel Sykes against running, causing a rift in the local party.

Jolly had his own homestead miscue in his 2014 race against Alex Sink.

Like Lynn, he blamed a paperwork error, releasing a statement at the time saying a mistake during closing had incorrectly granted a homestead exemption to a D.C. condo he bought in 2007. Unlike Lynn, however, he paid back the exemption that same year, six years before running for Congress.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

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