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  • atlanta mainstream, special reports

    Tax liens totaling $248K filed against 12 Georgia legislators

     

    Liens for a combined $248,402 in back taxes have been filed against 12 Georgia legislators, property records show.

    State officials recently said 19 members of the General Assembly did not file a Georgia income tax return in 2007. The Revenue Department had not yet filed liens against them, so the legislators’ names were blocked out in a report (Page 1, Page 2) that was made public, spokesman Charles Willey said. The number of non-filing legislators was later revised to 22.

    Officials later named three legislators — Reps. Al Williams, Winfred Dukes and Roberta Abdul-Salaam — who face liens for prior years’ taxes.

    AtlantaUnfiltered turned up tax liens against 12 legislators in a review of an online database of Georgia property records.

    The largest debt — $190, 387 — belonged to Williams, a four-term Democrat from Liberty County, records show. Liens for $107,683 and $73,049 in Georgia income taxes are on the books against Williams, as is a $9,654 lien for federal income taxes.

    Other delinquent legislators include:

    —    Rep. Abdul-Salaam, of Riverdale — state and federal taxes totaling $7,070

    —    Rep. Sharon Cooper of Marietta — liens in 2008 and 2009 totaling $2,399

    —    Rep. Dukes of Albany — $828

    —    Sen. Vincent Fort of Atlanta — $7,361

    —    Rep. Michael Glanton of Jonesboro — $9,087

    —    Rep. Joe Heckstall of East Point — $1,079

    —    Rep. Randal Mangham of Stone Mountain – liens for taxes & Atlanta sewer bills totaling $13,341

    —    Rep. Pedro Marin of Duluth — liens in 2005 and 2008 totaling $2,451

    —    Rep. Bobby C. Reese of Sugar Hill — $135

    —    Rep. Willie Talton of Warner Robins — dozens of liens like this one totaling $14,064

    —    Sen. Tommie Williams of Lyons — $200

    (NOTE: Rep. John Lunsford of McDonough, who was also subject of a $460 lien recorded in a state database, e-mailed us a closing document showing the buyer of his property in East Point was supposed to pay the taxes.)

    Three legislators promised last week, after being contacted by AtlantaUnfiltered, to pay their tax bills promptly. Cooper and Sen. Williams said they had no idea they owed anything (Williams’ bill had been mailed to an address in another city). Reese said he had been disputing the bill — personal property tax on a boat he sold on Jan. 2 last year — but would go ahead and pay up.

    The debts include income and property taxes, as well as some smaller sums for garbage collection, plus interest and penalties. A lien remains on the books until the debt is fully paid off, forgiven or withdrawn.

    These totals do not include past-due taxes that have not been the subject of a lien. Talton, for instance, could have his own book in the Houston County records room, just to hold the $14,000 in  liens against his rental properties. But he actually owes $30,289 in property taxes, according to a search on the Houston County tax commissioner’s Web site; local tax officials just haven’t filed all the liens yet.

    In 2002, voters amended the Georgia Constitution to say candidates who haven’t paid their taxes may not hold elective office. But, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year, the law can’t be enforced unless a civil court has ruled on the debt. That almost never happens.

    Those legislators may well have had a portion of their 2007 income taxes withheld from their paychecks. But without a tax return, Willey said, revenue officials can’t say whether the legislators owe more.

    Nine of those legislators were repeat offenders, having skipped filing a return at least once previously, the department reported. One had not filed a return since 2002.

     

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