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One legislator = 8 years of unpaid taxes
By BEN SMITH
State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam has racked up $22,381 in liens for unpaid federal and state income taxes for eight consecutive years, court records show.
The Georgia Department of Revenue executed the most recent lien, $651 for unpaid 2008 state taxes, on Jan. 25, shortly after it notified legislative leaders that a House member failed to file a 2008 tax return. That member has not been identified publicly, and Abdul-Salaam said she hasn’t been told that it’s her.
Abdul-Salaam insisted in an interview that 2001 was the only year she failed to pay her taxes.
“I don’t have money,” Abdul-Salaam said. “I struggle like most of my constituents, but I never run from my obligations.”
She said she disputes a $14,685 lien, filed last May, for unpaid state income taxes from 2002 through 2007, but acknowledged her wages are being garnisheed to satisfy the debt.
“How could I owe $15,000? I only make $17,000 [each year],” Abdul-Salaam said.
Lawmakers are paid a salary of about $17,000 a year plus per diem for meals and lodging during the annual legislative session.
A review of court records after the interview turned up another lien for $6,423 in unpaid federal income taxes from 2001. Abdul-Salaam did not return a follow-up phone call seeking comment.
The records do not show that 2001 debt has been satisfied. During the interview, Abdul-Salaam had insisted that she had filed all of her federal income tax returns, but that she was in “ongoing dispute with the IRS about student loan payments from my daughter’s student loans.”
“It’s still not resolved,” she said.
A 2008 law requires Georgia’s revenue commissioner to report any lawmaker who has not filed or paid state income taxes to a joint House-Senate ethics committee. Those who are still behind on their tax payments after 30 days can be subjected to an investigation by the committee.
The punishments include fines, a formal rebuke by the General Assembly and possible removal from office.
Abdul-Salaam said neither the committee nor Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham has contacted her to discuss her delinquent taxes.