Commissioners need to consider first time home buyers in transfer tax
The Charles County Board of Commissioners are once again considering legislation regarding the local Real Estate Transfer Tax (“transfer tax”). Last year during the only public hearing on this important public matter, the citizens of Charles County were promised an exemption from the transfer tax for “first time home buyers.” Unfortunately, the expedited public process, which failed to include any open comment period, led to ill-conceived and poorly worded legislation which included, among other errors, an illegal exemption. In a lawsuit brought by a taxpayer and citizen, a court found the county commissioners exceeded their authority by creating an exemption that improperly excluded individuals that, per state law, should have been included and did not include the full exemption intended by state law. As recently as October of last year, a majority of the commissioners made assertions that they would revisit the “first time home buyer” exemption during the next budget cycle.
The county commissioners are now considering an amendment to the transfer tax which will allow the commissioners to recognize additional revenue from the tax but have reneged on their promise to amend the law and enact an exemption for the “first time home buyer.” The failure to include such an exemption is a default on the commissioners’ promise to home buyers throughout Charles County. It is important to note the county commissioners originally enacted the transfer tax to bridge an alleged budget shortfall of $5 million. According to an article in the Maryland Independent in February of this year, the county, in reality, is expecting to end the year with a net gain of $8.9 million dollars. With such good news, now is the time for the commissioners to keep their promise.
Home buyers and sellers should not have to shoulder the heavy burden of property taxes, increased assessments, and now an additional tax for everyone at the point of sale. The county commissioners are holding a public hearing on Tuesday, May 10, at 6 p.m., at which the public will have a chance to voice their concerns. We strongly encourage residents of Charles County to attend and offer testimony against the transfer tax unless it includes an exemption for the “first time home buyer.” Home ownership is the American dream and the promise we make to our children. We encourage residents to write and/ or call commissioners Peter Murphy, Ken Robinson, Amanda Stewart, Debra Davis, and Bobby Rucci to remind them to keep their promise so that we may keep our promise to our children.
Let’s hold our elected officials responsible and hold them to their promises.
Steve Paul, Hughesville The writer is the president of the Southern Maryland Association of Realtors.