AUGUSTA — Ann LePage, the wife of Maine’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, received permanent-resident tax exemptions in 2009 on homes in Maine and Florida in violation of statutes in both states.

Paul LePage’s campaign admitted the violation on Thursday, calling it a paperwork error. A spokesman said Ann LePage had been unaware of the discrepancy and would remedy it.

Under Florida law, she could be fined and levied back property taxes if she is deemed in violation.

To receive the tax exemption in Maine or Florida — both of which call it the homestead exemption — a property owner must declare that state as his or her primary residence.

Ann LePage is the sole owner of homes in Waterville and Ormond Beach, Fla., according to records in those states. She received Maine’s homestead exemption on the house at 438 Main St. in Waterville in 1998, after buying the property with Paul LePage in 1995.

The property was transferred to Ann LePage alone in 1996. She bought the Florida property in 2008 and claimed the Florida homestead exemption on her 2009 property taxes.

In Maine, the exemption deducted about $200 from her property tax bill in 2009; in Florida, the exemption deducted about $1,500 from last year’s property tax bill, according to tax assessors in each state.

The tax paid in Waterville was $3,460; the tax paid in Florida was $2,113, according to assessing records.

On Thursday, Paul LePage said the house in Florida was purchased to help his wife care for her ailing mother, who cannot live in cold weather. Ann LePage did not return a call requesting an interview.

“My wife goes and cares for her and she comes back in the spring. We bought the house because we were spending $1,000 a month to rent,” he said. “I will tell you, I don’t care about residency as much as I care about keeping my mother-in-law alive.”

Morgan Gilreath, the property appraiser in Volusia County, Fla., said his state takes such violations seriously. Florida’s penalty, he said, is loss of the exemption, back taxes plus interest at 15 percent a year for up to 10 years, and 50 percent of that total as a fine.

“Our homestead exemption is very substantial, and for every tax dollar that someone gets in an illegitimate circumstance, those taxes are paid by legitimate Florida property owners and residents,” he said.

Gilreath said Volusia County has a two-person homestead investigative unit that looks into such matters.

To get the homestead exemption in Florida, property owners must affirm that they are Florida residents, have a car registered in Florida, and have a Florida driver’s license.

Paul LePage said Thursday that his wife had a Florida driver’s license at one time.

Maine records indicate that Ann LePage was reissued a Maine driver’s license on July 29 of this year.

“If you come down here and get (the exemption) and go back there and change (your license), it sure looks like you did that on purpose,” Gilreath said. “We look at it and we try to give them every benefit of the doubt.”

A spokesman for the LePage campaign, Brent Littlefield, said the issue is irrelevant to LePage’s bid for governor. LePage, the mayor of Waterville, is the front-runner in the five-person race, according to recent polls.

“Paul LePage’s name is not on the deed of either property in question; Paul LePage’s name is not on the homestead exemption form of either property in question. Ann LePage’s name is on the records, she signed a homestead exemption apparently 12 years ago, did not remember she did 12 years ago, now she’s been made aware of it,” Littlefield said.

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

[email protected]