Republican Herschel Walker is getting a tax break intended only for a primary residence this year on his home in the Dallas, Texas, area, despite running for Senate in Georgia.
Publicly available tax records reviewed by CNN’s KFile show Walker is listed to get a homestead tax exemption in Texas in 2022, saving the Senate candidate approximately $1,500 and potentially running afoul of both Texas tax rules and some Georgia rules on establishing residency for the purpose of voting or running for office.
Walker registered to vote in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2021 after living in Texas for two decades and voting infrequently. In Texas, homeowner regulations say you can only take the exemption on your “principal residence.”
Walker took the tax break in 2021 and 2022 for his Texas home even after launching a bid for Senate in Georgia, an official in the Tarrant County tax assessor office told CNN’s KFile. The Walker campaign did not respond to CNN’s repeated requests for comment. Walker is set to face Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in a runoff election in December after neither candidate earned more than 50% of the vote in November’s midterm election.
Politicians in the past in Texas have landed in hot water over improperly taking the exemption, including then-Gov. Rick Perry, and have typically agreed to pay back taxes.
Questions have swirled around Walker’s residency since he actively began exploring the possibility of a Senate run in Georgia last year, and Democrats and Republicans alike hit Walker over the issue.
To run for office and vote in Georgia, 15 rules, not all of which need to be met, are considered for establishing residency, which include where the resident takes their homestead tax exemption and where they intend to live permanently. The US Constitution only requires a potential senator to be an inhabitant of their state when elected.
Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University, said Georgia’s state law about establishing residence to be eligible to run for office is flexible and ultimately, Walker’s biggest problem could be political.
“At the end of the day, this is more of a political problem than a legal one in all likelihood, … where Walker can be painted as a carpetbagger. It does call into question whether Walker’s change of residency was made in good faith,” said Kreis.
He noted that in 2008, Jim Powell, a Democratic candidate for a local Public Service Commission seat, was initially disqualified from running for office by Karen Handel, a Republican who was Georgia’s secretary of state, for taking a homestead tax exemption outside of his district.
But ultimately, the Georgia Supreme Court decided 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 exemption alone was not dispositive evidence that could disqualify a candidate,” Kreis told CNN, but said Walker, unlike Powell, lacks a longstanding voting history and had only recently moved back to Georgia.
11Alive News, a local Georgia station, first reported that Walker took the homestead exemption on his Texas home in 2020.
Walker, despite now voting twice in Georgia and running for Senate in the state, has maintained the exemption, according to public records. The county tax office in Texas where Walker maintains his home confirmed the exemption.
Homeowners in many states are able to apply for a tax exemption by declaring their home to be their primary residence and the exemption lowers their tax bill by removing part of their home’s value on paper. Under Texas law, if a homeowner moves out of the state, the resident can still receive the exemption only if they don’t establish “principal residence” elsewhere and plan to return to Texas within two years.