Saturday April 7, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo is calling on the state Attorney General’s office to pursue millions of dollars worth of unpaid state excise taxes from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Nuciforo, who is in the midst of a three-way congressional primary fight, says a recent federal court ruling could mean the state is entitled to retroactively collect the taxes that the lenders never paid on property and foreclosure deeds because they asserted an exemption under federal law.

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have illegally been avoiding these taxes since 1991," Nuciforo said. "As a register, I think I’ve got an obligation to keep an eye on the documents incumbent to the office and to bring any impropriety to the attention of the attorney general."

Grant Woodman, a spokes man for the attorney general, confirmed that the office has received Nuciforo’s letter, but said Attorney General Martha Coakley has no comment at this time.

Nuciforo’s call for action was sparked by a March 23 opinion issued by a U.S. District Court in Michigan, which ruled that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are subject to the same excise tax provisions as other mortgage lenders in Michigan. The ruling allowed the state to then recoup the unpaid taxes.

In Massachusetts, any time a deed or foreclosure deed is transferred, the Registry of Deeds imposes an excise tax of $4.


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56 per $1,000 of consideration. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have avoided paying the tax by citing an exemption under Title 12 of the United States Code.

In last month’s ruling, however, a federal judge found Fannie and Freddie were not eligible for the exemption in question because they are privately owned mortgage companies, not "instrumentalities of the United States."

Nuciforo said he’s calculated that the two mortgage companies have avoided paying $155,031 in excise taxes in Berkshire County alone since 1991. In his letter to Coakley, Nuciforo says his counterpart at the Southern Essex Registry has identified another $4.2 million in unpaid excise tax.

Nuciforo says that, though Coakley hasn’t responded yet, he’s confident she will vigorously pursue the issue.

"She’s been very aggressive when it comes to improper mortgage practices when it comes to big banks and mortgage companies," Nuci foro said.

Nuciforo isn’t seeking re-election to the registry and is instead challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal in the 1st Massachusetts District Democratic Primary. Nuciforo, a former state senator, also faces political newcomer Bill Shein, a writer and activist of Alford.

To reach Ned Oliver:
noliver@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @BE_NedOliver