The Oregon Tax Court looked closely at the definition of “homestead” and determined that the legislature intended it to mean not simply a home, but a place where the owner lives. The court also found that Bernardino Flores’s multi-year absence from his home went beyond the definition of a “temporary absence” in the tax rules. Although the rules didn’t define “temporary,” the court concluded that the length of Flores’ absence exceeded a reasonable interpretation.
The court then turned to the question of whether Josefina Spiotti’s home could be considered the same as a long-term care facility or nursing home. It conceded that Flores’ care in his daughter’s home could possibly be equivalent to institutional care. But the eligibility rules only made reference to long-term care facilities or nursing homes—and the court would not expand the definition. The court declined to “insert what had been omitted, or to omit what had been inserted” under the law. The denial of Flores’ homestead tax exemption was upheld.
In a discussion about the case, Leslie D. Box of the Assessor’s Office said, “I personally think a child’s home should be allowed for a parent’s care. I would like to see some equivalency with nursing homes, but with certification so that the state can be sure that elderly parents are being cared for in the right way.”
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Robin Gerber is a lawyer and the author of Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.