LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Public records in Florida show that this week, a home owned by Virginia Del. Kathy Byron and her husband received a tax break designated for a person’s primary residence.
Byron has been in office since 1998. Her district covers parts of Lynchburg and the counties of Bedford, Franklin, and Campbell. She and her husband also own a home near Tampa, in Hillsboro County, Florida.
According to the Hillsboro County Property Appraiser’s office, the home received conditional approval on an application to receive a homestead exemption. An official with that office said “not that many” conditional approvals are later overturned. The official, General Counsel Will Shepherd, said the office makes its final decisions regarding homestead exemptions by July 1.
As two separate Florida tax attorneys explain to WFXR News, a homestead exemption can help reduce a homeowner’s tax burden on their primary home by hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.
As Byron says, it’s a non-issue.
“I live here, right here, and I have a car that’s registered in Virginia, I pay taxes in Virginia, I’ve had a business in Virginia for 25 years. Yes, we own other property.”
She says the house does have the exemption, but the application for the exemption isn’t under her name.
“That is in my husband’s name. He is a resident of Florida. You usually don’t get into people’s personal business. I am not a resident. I don’t live there.”
The Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s office says that’s a possibility.
“It would have to be one or the other of their primary residence in order for us to grant the homestead as of January 1,” said Shepherd. “It is possible for a married couple to have separate residences, one inside the state, one outside the state.”
The application is not a public record, so we can’t see who filed for the exemption to confirm Byron’s claim.
As Florida tax attorney David Brennan, Jr. explains, Byron could still benefit financially from her husband’s Florida tax break.
“Let’s say my wife and I own our property in a trust,” said Brennan, “but we don’t actually live there, but our son is a beneficial interest to the trust and he lives in the property. Then it’s very likely and potentially possible that he could still get the homestead exemption and we all benefit to it to some degree, even though my wife and I don’t live there, but he does.”
As WFXR News’s Political Analyst and Political Science Professor at Virginia Tech Dr. Karen Hult explains, this could be less of a legal issue and more of a political one.
“Now then the question becomes to what extent does that shape how she might make decisions as a state representative in Richmond? That’s a harder case to make,” said Hult.
Byron remains confident in her ability to represent the 22nd District.
“People know what the truth is and if they see something like this, they would not appreciate it very much either,” said Byron. “A lot of people know that my husband lives in Florida. My friends certainly know.”
Byron also pointed out her decades-long voting and attendance record.