U.S. Representative Buddy Carter’s tax wrangle continues


Keeping alive U.S. Representative Earl L. “Buddy” Carter’s request for relief from his Camden County property tax, a judge on Tuesday sided with the congressman and against the county.

Carter had asked the court in February for an order from the Council of Assessors and the Camden Equalization Board regarding his disputed property tax assessment. He either wants an assessment freeze at 2020 levels for three years — saving him about $30,000 in taxes — or another shot at a hearing on his property tax appeal.

U.S. Representative Buddy Carter bought this land in 2018 for $2.1 million. He appealed the 2020 property tax assessment which set the value at 13% of the sale price. Credit: Camden County

Judge Stephen Kelley ruled only on Camden’s motion to dismiss the case, dismissing it. He also ordered both parties to engage in discovery before the next hearing, the date of which is yet to be determined.

Savannah-based attorney Craig Call represented Carter at the hearing, which the congressman did not attend. Camden County Attorney John Myers represented the Board of Appraisers; Brunswick-based Garret Meader represented the county’s equalization board.

Carter, the only congressman from coastal Georgia, lives in Chatham County. But in 2018, he bought an undeveloped property in Camden that’s about half the size of the town of Thunderbolt. He paid $2.05 million to Challenged Investments LLC, according to Camden County records. The land is approximately 220 acres of wetland and 250 acres of raised land zoned for residential development.

The 2020 tax assessment Carter appealed valued the land at $274,000, about one-eighth of what he had paid two years prior.

Carter’s estimated net worth in 2019 was $66 million, making him the tenth richest member of the United States House of Representatives, according to a 2019 ranking by OpenSecrets.org.

Carter’s land lies about 10 miles southwest of the proposed Spaceport Camden site, for which he has been a strong supporter. About a month after purchasing the property, he organized a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration in support of the spaceport and collected signatures from the Georgian delegation to the United States House of Representatives. Despite the property not being in a conservation easement, Carter maintained that he purchased it for hunting and fishing and not as an investment.

In filings, Carter claims he was misled by a county employee into believing he could be excused from an Equalization Board hearing and have his assessment frozen for three years by writing a letter stating his agreement with the disputed assessment.

Instead, after writing the letter and not appearing for the December 29, 2020 hearing, his 2021 property assessment rose to $1.3 million.

Kelley was sympathetic to Carter’s situation, suggesting that “the government shouldn’t goad someone into not showing up and then hold it against them.” The situation could have been avoided had the Equalization Board phoned Carter to include him in the December 2020 hearing where he was absent, Kelley said.

“I know the law doesn’t say the government has to be nice, but I think every taxpayer deserves common courtesy,” Kelley said.

County attorneys argued that Carter, like any citizen, is expected to know the law and can have legal advice.

That hearing was previously scheduled for October but was postponed when Judge Anthony L. Harrison recused himself because he had a personal and professional relationship with Carter.

The stream requested permission to record Tuesday’s hearing, but Judge Kelley denied the request and did not provide a reason for the denial, as Georgia court rules require.


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