Miller & Chevalier Successful in Advocating for Passage of Law to Ensure Continued Operation of Hyacinth's Place
Washington, DC, March 11, 2019 – Miller & Chevalier Chartered is pleased to announce that District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser has signed the Hyacinth's Place Equitable Real Property Tax Relief Act of 2018 (the "Act") following its passage by the DC Council last December. The Act orders the forgiveness of over $20,000 of outstanding DC real property taxes assessed against Hyacinth's Place, a homeless shelter for women with mental health issues. The Act will allow Hyacinth's Place to continue its mission without fear of having to shut down or curtail its operations as a result of its outstanding tax debt.
The Act was the culmination of years of work by Miller & Chevalier attorneys Jim Warren, Andy Howlett, and Sean Morrison. The DC Bar Pro Bono Center referred the case to the firm.
Although Hyacinth's Place is a nonprofit organization that should be exempt from DC real property taxes, a number of issues – including shortcomings in the DC Code itself – prevented the organization from fully availing itself of the exemption. Warren, Howlett, and Morrison first worked with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) to reduce over $125,000 in tax debt. However, when OTR informed Hyacinth's Place that it was bound by statute to enforce the remaining $26,000 of debt, Miller & Chevalier sought legislative relief for the remaining balance.
"We owed so much in taxes that it was far beyond our annual operating budget," said Urla Barrow, Chief Executive Officer of Hyacinth's Place. "Thanks to the work of Miller & Chevalier we will be able to continue to serve the community. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate their hard work and diligence."
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5) sponsored the Act, recognizing the vital role that Hyacinth's Place plays in the community. After hearing testimony from Barrow, Howlett, and two residents of Hyacinth's Place in support of the Act, Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2) remarked to Barrow, "We don't have enough facilities like yours doing work to help people. We need more of them and we need to be supportive of them."
Sadly, Jim Warren passed away shortly after Mayor Bowser signed the Act. "I will always remember his kindness, willingness to work with us, and his very pleasant and gentle personality," Barrow said of Warren. "I thought of him as a humble person with a quiet strength. I felt that he had a genuine interest in our work. I know he will be missed by many because of the difference he made to their lives and organizations through his work. As the leader of the team, he made all the difference to our organization's ability to continue serving the community."
Howlett and Morrison echoed Barrow's statements. "It was obvious Jim took the mission of Hyacinth's Place very personally," Howlett said. "He was also a brilliant lawyer. It goes without saying we would not have gotten the result that we did without Jim. He's the reason that we were successful." Morrison added, "Jim had a way of getting everyone on his side. That served us well when working on Hyacinth's Place's challenging tax issues."
Under the DC Home Rule Act of 1973, the law is subject to the veto of the U.S. Congress. If Congress does not exercise its veto power, the Act will become law on May 2, 2019 (subject to a funding allocation in the District's budget).
About Miller & Chevalier
Founded in 1920, Miller & Chevalier is a Washington, DC law firm with a global perspective and leading practices in Tax, Litigation, International Law, Employee Benefits (including ERISA), White Collar Defense and Internal Investigations, and Government Affairs. Miller & Chevalier is a top-ranked firm sharply focused on targeted areas that interact with the federal government. Over the past three years, the firm's lawyers have represented more than 40 percent of the Fortune 100, one-quarter of the Fortune 500, and approximately 30 percent of the Global 100. Based in Washington, DC, a significant number of firm lawyers have held senior positions in the U.S. government and have written many of the regulations they currently help clients navigate. For more information on the firm, visit www.millerchevalier.com.
Laura Miller, Media Relations, Greentarget, 312-252-4104