Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, asked San Diego County for property tax relief after paying cash for their $12 million Mediterranean-style beachfront La Jolla home in 2008, it was reported Monday.
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San Diego County assessor records show the Romneys' asked that their 2009 assessment, $12.24 million, be reduced to $6.8 million, maintaining that their home had lost about 45 percent of its value in the first seven months they owned it, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
Thirteen months later, after hiring an attorney to guide them, the Romneys filed an amended appeal, contending the home had suffered a less-dramatic fall of 27.3 percent, to $8.9 million.
The Times reported that the couple filed an appeal for the 2010 tax year, claiming the house had dropped further, to $7.5 million, 38.7 percent less than the home's assessed value. As a result, the Romneys have saved about $109,000 in property taxes over four years, according to The Times.
Romney's wealth is estimated at $250 million. He has rejected calls from Democrats and Republicans to release his income tax returns prior to 2010.
"Did Romney's resources get him to the front of the line?" asked 10News reporter Michael Chen.
San Diego County Assessor Ernie Dronenburg replied, "No."
Dronenburg told 10News the process Romney went through is something any homeowner can apply for -- online and free, with no attorney needed.
State laws say if the market value of a home falls below the assessed value, the homeowner can apply for a property tax break.
In April, a 10News I-Team investigation revealed many homeowners are not getting relief. Of the roughly 300,000 homes that qualify, 52 percent of them had their assessed values reduced, leaving 48 percent that have not received the savings.
Dronenburg said while his office has, on its own, lowered 200,000 assessments in the past two years, they have not got to all of them.
"It's just an issue of resources," he said.
Dronenburg said his office is catching up, and he predicted most of those qualifying for savings will receive them by the end of this year.
While Romney is still saving money, it might not last long. He has applied to quadruple the size of his home and plans to added a car elevator.
"That's a significant increase in floor space and size of home and will accrue market value," said Dronenburg.
Renovation plans for Romney's home are on hold pending the end of the presidential election.
The attorney handling Romney's tax issue didn't return 10News' calls seeking comment.
Since the real estate market crashed, about 250,000 San Diego County homes have been reassessed at lower values.
Please visit the county's website, Property Tax Assessment Appeals
for more information.
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