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ICYMI: Mehmet Oz scored a $50,000 annual tax break on his $3.1 million Montco manor [The Philadelphia Inquirer]

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Mehmet Oz scored a $50,000 annual tax break on his $3.1 million Montco manor
By Julia Terruso, Ryan W. Briggs, and Jonathan Tamari
August 9, 2022

Key Points:

  • When Mehmet Oz bought a bucolic farmhouse in Montgomery County last year, he not only acquired property in the state where he’s running for Senate, he also scored a $50,000-a-year tax break.
  • The large tax rebate could provide ammunition for Democrats seeking to paint Oz as a wealthy, out-of-touch carpetbagger from New Jersey.
  • And, while owning property may signal the celebrity doctor’s commitment to Pennsylvania, he’s still not living in the home — and it’s unclear when he will be.
  • While Oz says he’s simply awaiting renovations before he moves into his new home, there’s little sign of work at the property, and he continues to live at his in-laws’ home in the nearby borough Bryn Athyn.
  • He and his wife, Lisa Lemole, purchased the $3.1 million farmstead in December 2021, weeks after he launched his Senate campaign. The forested, 34-acre property in Lower Moreland Township features a 7,300-square-foot, eight-bedroom manor house, according to deed records from Montgomery County.
  • While Oz insists he “didn’t seek out” a tax break that both the church and prior owners had received, deed records show the couple filled out a transfer application for the perk.
  • In Oz’s Act 319 reapplication, dated March 2022, the couple attested that the entirety of the woodsy acreage would continue to be held as a “forest reserve” while under their ownership. In exchange, Oz saw more than $1 million dollars knocked off the $1.52 million assessed value of the property. That means the county considers a sprawling tract of land Oz paid millions to purchase to be worth just $447,930 for taxation purposes — or just slightly above the median listing price for a home in Montgomery County.
  • The practical effect: Oz and Lemole’s annual tax bill, the bulk of which benefits the Lower Moreland School District, dropped from about $72,000 to just $21,473.
  • Together, the couple is worth at least $104 million, and likely far more, according to Senate financial disclosures. They have multimillion dollar mansions in New Jersey and Palm Beach, among other valuable properties.
  • Richard Booker, a tax attorney who publicly opposed similar Act 319 deals during his tenure as a Republican commissioner in nearby Radnor Township, said these incentives deprive municipalities of potential tax revenue while offering few other benefits — particularly in cases like Oz’s, where the preserved open space remains off limits to the general public.
  • “I’m a conservative tax lawyer, and I’m for lower taxes and smaller government. But I don’t believe in these kinds of tax benefits for anyone,” he said. “They’re always unequal, and they never work.”
  • Public records show Oz had already agreed not to develop the land months before his application… Booker said that no-development clause in the deed shows the tax incentive is simply being exploited.
  • It’s not clear when Oz, who has faced sharp political attacks over both his vast personal wealth and his ties to Pennsylvania, will move into the home. The Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, has argued that Oz’s move to Pennsylvania is about personal promotion, not any real commitment to the state.
  • The campaign insists “renovations are ongoing” at the farmstead but provided no specifics… However, on two recent afternoons, there were no cars in the driveway or signs of construction activity at the house.

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