Swindlers’ Taxonomy: Mark Martin is Twice the Homesteader You Are

August 15, 2014
By

On Sunday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran a story about how illegal use of the homestead tax credit was costing the state millions of dollars each year.  The article noted, “The homestead tax credits improperly claimed by Republican gubernatorial nominee Asa Hutchinson of Rogers have raised questions about how widespread the problem is,” in reference to a report by Mike Wickline back in June about Hutchinson’s taking the credit on properties in both Rogers and Little Rock from 2008 to 2011.

Given Mark Martin’s history of unethical and arguably illegal acts when it comes to what he sees as free money, Sunday’s story immediately made me think of the Secretary of State.  (Other things that immediately make me think of Mark Martin: Zack Morris’ haircut, demonstrative medical models, accidental geotagging on Facebook….)  So I went looking on ARCountyData.com, just to see what was out there.

I’ll save the suspense and cut right to the punchline

…by expressing the result in the form of an animated .gif.

On April 10, 2003, Martin and his wife executed a mortgage for a house located at 18156 Posy Mountain Dr. in Rogers, AR (Benton County).  Paragraph 6 of that mortgage reads:

Borrower shall occupy, establish, and use the Property as Borrower’s principal residence within sixty days after the execution of this Security Instrument and shall continue to occupy the Property as Borrower’s principal residence for at least one year after the date of occupancy, unless Lender otherwise agrees in writing, which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld, or unless extenuating circumstances exist which are beyond Borrower’s control.

Now…here’s the deal: that language — literally, that exact wording — is very common in mortgages, especially mortgages under Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, because having a house as your primary residence (“owner occupied,” in mortgage-lender parlance) generally gets you a lower interest rate than a second home or investment property would get.  Violating the clause — including by making false or misleading statements regarding your intent to occupy the house for at least a year as your primary residence, is grounds for the lender to accelerate the entire mortgage and make the balance come due immediately.  So…kind of a big deal.

That clause is not iron-clad, mind you; you can get around it based on the “extenuating circumstances” clause, which generally comes into play if a person loses a job, there’s a death that requires someone to move, etc.  Additionally, a person can often sell the house in less than a year and not run afoul of the clause.  In fact, about the only thing that a person cannot do under that clause is run out an buy another home with a primary-residence clause that would take effect less than a year after entering the first mortgage.

Which brings us to Mark Martin.

On August 25, 2003, Martin and his wife entered a mortgage for a house located at 123 Pittman St. in Prairie Grove, AR (Washington County).  This mortgage — a VA-backed loan — also contained the following language,  right there at paragraph 6:

Borrower shall occupy, establish, and use the Property as Borrower’s principal residence within sixty days after the execution of this Security Instrument and shall continue to occupy the Property as Borrower’s principal residence for at least one year after the date of occupancy, unless Lender otherwise agrees in writing, which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld, or unless extenuating circumstances exist which are beyond Borrower’s control.

Now, Martin is an engineer, but I am 100% certain that he has not found a way to alter the space-time continuum.  Which means that, at least until April of 2004 rolled around, he was pretty clearly violating the residency clause of the first mortgage.  We know this because the Pittman St. address in Prairie Grove is the address he used when he first ran for State Representative, so — unless he was violating state election laws in 2004 — Martin had to have taken up permanent residency in Prairie Grove no later than November 2, 2003.

So why does all this matter?  Because, as I mentioned above, based at least in part on the mortgage language that lets each house appear to be a primary residence, Mark Martin has taken the homestead credit on his taxes for both properties since at least 2008. (I say at least 2008 because the Benton County tax records online only go back that far.  Washington County goes back to 2007.  Though, I’m more than willing to speculate that Martin has taken the credit on both properties since 2003.  If Martin or one of his lackeys wants to provide documentation to the contrary, I’ll correct this assumption.  Regardless, from 2008 to present, Martin has improperly taken homestead credits on both houses.)

Here are the Benton County tax records.  Here are the Washington County tax records.  Here is the level of surprise I feel in seeing that Mark Martin has once again tried to fleece the system for more than what he is legally entitled to:

According to the Arkansas Code:

26-26-1119 (a)(2)

(A) If the county assessor determines that a property owner has claimed more than one (1) homestead property tax credit in a year, in addition to repayment of the homestead property tax credit, the designated preparer of the tax books shall extend a penalty of one hundred percent (100%) of the amount of the unlawfully claimed homestead property tax credit.

(B) (i) If the property owner has unlawfully claimed a homestead property tax credit in a county other than the county where his or her lawfully claimed homestead property tax credit was claimed, then the property owner shall pay the entire amount of the unlawfully claimed homestead property tax credit and the penalty at the time of payment of the property owner’s taxes.

Unfortunately, that penalty and repayment only goes back three years by law.  So, despite the fact that Martin has either taken $2,100 in improper homestead credits (if it only began in tax year 2008) or $3,850 in improper credits (if it began in tax year 2003), the people of Arkansas are only entitled to have Martin repay $1,050 in credits, plus a penalty of $1,050.  Sure, if he were actually concerned with doing the right thing and being accountable to the people, Martin could choose to repay all the way back to when this practice began, much like Asa Hutchinson did recently, but I’m not holding my breath.  I’d say it’s far more likely that Mark Myers or some other member of The Martin Apologists will respond and say that this is all false.  Because that’s how they roll.

As I was writing all of this, however, something else came to mind.  You might recall that, per the state constitution, there are only two constitutional officers who have to keep their residence in Little Rock while they are in office.  That would be the Governor and the Secretary of State.  Unlike a legislator or other constitutional officer, who remains a legal resident of the county where he lived prior to taking office, the law in the case of the Secretary of State commands exactly the opposite.  Which is to say that, by law, Martin has been a resident of Pulaski County since January 2011.  Since Martin’s wife still resides in Washington County, and Martin and his wife are joint owners of the property, maybe this isn’t a big deal, depending on how they handle their taxes.  But, even if that’s not a problem, it does make the greed of taking two homestead credits even more obnoxious.

I say that in large part because he doesn’t strike me as particularly bright, but also because he’s greedy enough that he would be selling the flux capacitor within minutes of building one that worked.

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