Hagers eligible for homestead credit on S. Baltimore rowhouse, state says

Henry Hager, the husband of former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager, is entitled to a $296 property tax discount on his South Baltimore rowhouse for the current tax year, the state Department of Assessments and Taxation says.

An article Tuesday in The Baltimore Sun questioned the validity of Hager's homestead credit for the year that began July 1. The credit program is supposed to be available only to owner-occupants, and Hager has rented out the house since August — nearly the entire tax year. Last week, Owen C. Charles, deputy director of the assessments agency, said the agency might ask Baltimore's property registration office to investigate.

But state officials said Wednesday that a homeowner qualifies for the homestead credit if he or she resides in a home at least six months of the relevant calendar year — in this case 2011 — and also lives there on July 1, the first day of the tax year. Hager says he lived in the house in the 1300 block of S.Charles St. through July.

"The bottom line is, the way the department processed it, we were totally correct, and Mr. Hager was entitled to that credit" for 2011-2012, said Robert E. Young, director of the assessments agency.

Young's staff informed Hager of his eligibility when he called this week seeking to repay what he thought was an undeserved break, based on information from The Sun.

Hager bought the house in March 2008, and the Hagers moved in after their wedding that May. They reportedly moved to New York in December 2010, putting the house up for sale. The state, tipped to their departure by property tax watchdog Matt Gonter, removed the credit for the 2010-11 tax year.

The agency soon restored the credit, however, after Hager notified officials in January 2011 that he still lived there. Hager says he worked during the week at Constellation Energy's Baltimore office and went to New York on weekends to be with his wife, a "Today" show correspondent.

It is not clear why the agency's Baltimore office temporarily removed the 2010-2011 credit, given that Hager would have satisfied both the six-month and the July 1 residency requirements. Young said his understanding is that "someone at the city office made the judgment to remove it" and that Hager was given 30 days to respond. Unless the Hagers move back into the house by July 1, they will lose the homestead credit for the coming tax year.


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