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Commissioners debate granting exemptions for county excise tax

October 27, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Some Washington County Commissioners are unsure whether the county has the authority to waive the excise tax for some property owners who dispute the charge.

The County Commissioners debated the issue at Tuesday's meeting during a discussion about which legislative requests to pitch for the upcoming Maryland General Assembly.

One request was to seek clarification from the local delegation about whether the commissioners had the authority to "grant individual exemptions" for the excise tax, which is a tax on new construction.

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Confusion came about after Commissioner John C. Munson said he interpreted that language to mean the county does not currently have the authority to grant waivers to individual residents.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop, however, recently granted an excise tax waiver to a family, Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said after the meeting.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said the legislative request was referring to granting exemptions for commercial uses. He said the word "nonresidential" should have been written into the request.

"An individual request means me or you, not a (company)," Munson said. "It's worded wrong."

County Attorney John Martirano said during the meeting that the county has the authority to grant credits to individuals against the building excise tax under the Building Excise Tax Ordinance's section on work-force housing.

That section states, "An individual who constructs single-family residential units or multifamily residential units as workforce housing in compliance with this section shall be entitled to credits against the building excise tax."

It describes work-force housing as "housing for households with an income that is greater than 50 percent but does not exceed 120 percent of the average family median income for households in Washington County as established by the Planning Director."

Wivell said the request from the family never mentioned its income in the request.

If the county does have the authority to grant individual exemptions, Munson insisted the wording in the legislative request proposal was incorrect.

"I don't think I forgot how to read words ... We are wrong," Munson said.

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