Republican Herschel Walker will receive a tax break this year only for a primary residence at his home in the Dallas, Texas area, despite running for Senate in Georgia.
Publicly available tax records reviewed by CNN’s KFile show Walker will receive a homestead tax exemption in Texas in 2022, saving the Senate candidate approximately $1,500 and potentially violating both Texas tax rules and some Georgia regulations establishing one violating residence for purposes of voting or running for office.
Walker registered in Atlanta, Georgia, to vote in 2021 after living in Texas for two decades and rarely voting. In Texas, homeowner regulations state that you can only claim the exemption for your “primary residence.”
Walker claimed the tax break for his Texas home in 2021 and 2022, even after he submitted a bid for the Georgia Senate, an official with the Tarrant County Tax Advisors Office told CNN’s KFile. The Walker campaign did not respond to CNN’s repeated requests for comment. Walker is expected to face Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in a runoff in December after neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote in November’s midterm elections.
Texas politicians have landed in hot water in the past for improperly utilizing the waiver, including the then-governor. Rick Perry, and have usually agreed to return taxes.
Questions have swirled around him since Walker actively explored the possibility of a Georgia Senate nomination last year, with Democrats and Republicans alike slamming Walker on the matter.
Running for and voting for office in Georgia takes into account 15 residency rules, not all of which need to be met, including where the resident is claiming their home tax exemption and where they intend to live permanently. The US Constitution only requires that a potential senator be a resident of his state at the time of his election.
Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University, said Georgia’s state law governing residence in order to run for office is flexible, and Walker’s biggest problem may ultimately be political.
“At the end of the day, this is in all likelihood a political rather than a legal issue … where Walker can be painted as a carpet digger. The question is whether Walker’s change of residence was made in good faith,” Kreis said.
He pointed out that Jim Powell, a Democratic nominee for a seat on the local Public Service Commission, was initially barred from running for office in 2008 by Karen Handel, a Republican who was Georgia Secretary of State, because he received a tax exemption had claimed for a homestead outside his district.
Ultimately, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled the candidate could remain on the ballot, saying 7 of the 15 rules showed he had ties to the district.
“The state Supreme Court said that a homestead exception alone is not conclusive evidence that could disqualify a candidate,” Kreis told CNN, but said Walker, unlike Powell, does not have a long standing election history and was only recently to Georgia returned.
11Alive News, a local Georgia broadcaster, first reported that Walker claimed the special permit for his Texas home in 2020.
Although Walker has now voted twice in Georgia and is running for the state Senate, he has retained the exception, according to public records. The County Tax Office in Texas, where Walker has his home, confirmed the exemption.
Homeowners in many states can apply for a tax exemption by making their home their primary residence, and the exemption lowers their tax bill by removing some of their home’s paper value. Under Texas law, if a homeowner moves out of the state, the resident can only receive the exemption if they do not establish another “principal residence” and plan to return to Texas within two years.