Troy Downing

Troy Downing

U.S. Senate candidate Troy Downing’s accountant says she did not specifically research administrative rules when the Republican candidate asked her to amend past tax returns to change his status as a Montana resident.

Downing recently asked Gallatin County Justice Court Judge Bryan Adams to throw out several charges alleging he was not a Montana resident when he bought resident hunting licenses from 2011 through 2016, claiming past accountants made errors in his tax filings.

In a pretrial motion hearing in Justice Court on Tuesday, Majorie Knaub, a certified public accountant from Big Sky, said she helped Downing amend his tax returns from 2012 through 2014 “because he had filed as a non-resident and he should have filed as a resident (of Montana).”

Downing couldn’t amend his 2011 tax return, Christopher Williams, his attorney, maintains, because Brian Lloyd, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden who investigated the case, didn’t tell him of the issue until it was too late to correct the older returns.

Gallatin County Deputy Attorney Bradley Bowen grilled Knaub on the questions she asked Downing to determine his residency and whether she had researched standards to determine residency with the Montana Department of Revenue. Knaub said she had read the instructions that come with the tax forms, but hadn’t done any research beyond that.

“I asked him if he had a home in Montana and he said he had a home in Montana,” Knaub told Bowen in a video conference during the hearing.

Knaub confirmed to Bowen that her opinion that Downing was qualified for Montana residency was that he asked her to amend past tax forms to correct his residency and that he had a home in the state.

“If someone tells me they live in Montana, then I’m willing to prepare a Montana return,” she said.

Downing did not attend Tuesday’s hearing.

Downing is facing seven misdemeanors for unlawful purchase of or applying for a resident license by a nonresident. The citations accuse him of illegally buying licenses in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The Republican candidate pleaded not guilty to the charges. A three-day trial is scheduled to start May 23, two weeks before the state’s primary election.

Downing was also cited for transferring a hunting license to another person and for assisting an unqualified applicant in obtaining a hunting license. Those citations were not addressed in the pretrial motions.

The citation for transferring a license accuses him of loaning a 2011 Montana elk license to another for killing a bull elk. And the citation for assisting an unqualified applicant accuses him of helping his nonresident son obtain Montana resident conservation, deer and elk licenses in 2015.

According to a search warrant application written by warden Lloyd, the investigation into Downing’s residency began in 2013 when the Montana Department of Revenue asked FWP to look into whether Downing met residency requirements for Montana hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. DOR said it believed Downing had illegally purchased resident licenses.

The Chronicle also confirmed with the San Diego assessor’s office that Downing had been receiving a tax exemption for a home he owns in Fallbrook, California, about 60 miles north of San Diego. Downing has received the exemption since 2005, which is for homeowners if the home is their primary residence.

Downing is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018 along with State Auditor Matt Rosendale, state Sen. Albert Olszewski of Kalispell and former Billings judge Russell Fagg.

Adams has not ruled on the pretrial motions.

Freddy Monares can be reached at 406-582-2630, or by email at fmonares@dailychronicle.com.

Reporter

Freddy Monares covers politics and county government for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

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