BOSTON (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez is defending his decision to take a $281,000 tax deduction for promising not to alter his historic Cohasset home, even though local bylaws already prevented changes to the facade of the house.
Gomez said he’s done nothing wrong. He criticized Democratic opponent Congressman Edward Markey for suggesting he'd done anything to break the rules. The tax break was first reported by The Boston Globe.
Under the deal, Gomez and his wife entered into an agreement with the nonprofit National Architectural Trust in late 2005 which allowed them to take the tax deduction on the home they bought for $2.1 million in 2004.
As part of the agreement, the couple gave the trust control of the facade of the home, which was counted as a monetary donation to the group. The fact that local bylaws had already prevented any changes to the facade of the home has raised questions about whether the easement awarded to the trust had any monetary value.
The Washington, D.C.-based group has been criticized by federal prosecutors for arraigning unwarranted claims by homeowners for deductions. At the time, the IRS had listed preservation agreements as one of its ‘‘Dirty Dozen tax scams.’’
Markey’s campaign has faulted Gomez for ‘‘exploiting a tax break for the super wealthy.’’
Gomez said he’s done nothing wrong.
‘‘For Congressman Markey to suggest that I've done anything to break the rules is beyond disgraceful, it’s dishonorable,’’ Gomez said during a campaign stop Thursday. ‘‘I've followed the rules. It’s as simple as that.’’
On Friday, Gomez’s campaign called on Markey to release his tax returns. Gomez has released six years of returns; Markey hasn’t released any.
‘‘Why hasn’t Ed Markey, a public employee for over 37 years, released even a single year of his tax returns? What is he hiding?’’ said Jill Neunaber, campaign manager for Gomez.
Markey’s campaign said he plans to release tax returns soon.
Gomez has declined to release his tax returns for 2005, the year that the agreement was reached on the tax deduction.
The Gomez campaign has also said that the historic preservation facade easement program was originally approved a year before Markey first took office, but was amended and renewed by voice vote in 1980, when Markey was a member of the U.S. House. They said he didn’t object to it at the time.
Democratic Party leaders were quick to jump on the revelation of the tax break.
‘‘The tax scheme that Gabriel Gomez took advantage of was labeled a ‘scam’ by the IRS,’’ said Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh. ‘‘That’s precious taxpayer money that could have gone to boost our schools, our roads, our universities, and our law enforcement.’’
Markey and Gomez are competing for the open U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the resignation of John Kerry to become Secretary of State.
The special election is June 25.