Hi again Peter,
So I've thought about this one a lot, and I do admire your work, but I'll have to say that I respectfully disagree with you. "Principal residence" is an IRS definition, period. As you mentioned, I suspect Albertson declares the Santa Barbara home that way to benefit from the tax exemption and his mortgage interest tax deduction; he obviously doesn't have a 720 mile commute. So long as he's not collecting undeclared rental income on the property and he doesn't designate another home that way on his tax returns (plus the fact that his wife actually lives there), the Santa Barbara home pretty much meets the textbook definition of a "principal residence." (Though I suspect by our online discussion that we may have "nominated" the Albertsons for an audit next year, my apologies to the misses.)
Now, if he was registered to vote in Santa Barbara County as well then I suppose Atkinson would be a little concerned.
I'm not defending Albertson as a council member, but if he rents a home in Petaluma (as I rented half a bedroom in Santa Barbara for two years while in school) that makes him eligible to vote on Sonoma County issues. The IRS gives you one principle residence, and if you sleep there and telecommute or live 360 miles away and leave it to your wife, I doubt if they really care. And until they do, maybe we should let Mr. Albertson enjoy a "fuzzy" tax code like the rest of us and nail him instead on his voting record.
Wow Peter, good journalism.
I think I see your frustration but here are a few thoughts ... so long as Anderson doesn't declare two principal residences on his taxes, I don't really see a "legal" issue here.
Should he be required to BUY in Petaluma just because he's 'employed' by the city, just because he's registered to vote here? He's a renter, yes, but his rent goes to a landlord, who then in turn pays County and City property taxes. It's not like he's renting in Novato (sending tax dollars to Marin county) and voting on Sonoma County ballot issues. Back to Santa Barbara, I remember when the long-term residents of that county didn't want us students at UCSB to be able to vote in their elections even though we were legally registered to vote. They basically made their argument on a point you seemed to suggest, that we weren't "permanent" residents of the area. We'd be voting on issues that would affect the county long after we packed up and moved back home or elsewhere - which I obviously did. (Who knows if they're still affected by my vote.) So is the real question whether or not Anderson intends to live here permanently or simply pack up and head to sunny Santa Barbara when his term is up? Maybe HE doesn't even know the answer to that question, and on this point I think I'll have to agree with Anderson - it's really none of my business.
But good job - I don't want to be on your bad side!
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