Rep. Joyce Chandler (HD 105): Disputed tax liens top $525K
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Joyce Hammett Chandler (R-Grayson)
District 105 (Gwinnett County)
Rep. Joyce Chandler and her husband owe more than a half-million dollars in back income taxes, federal tax collectors say, and the amount appears to be growing.
The IRS in July filed a lien for $519,000 including interest and penalties, just the latest development in a decade-long attempt to collect taxes from the legislator and her husband, Martin.
“It was all my deal. She had nothing to do with it,” Martin Chandler said in a recent telephone interview.
The agency has also filed a separate $6,500 lien against Joyce Chandler alone for tax year 2013.
Georgia voters amended the Georgia Constitution in 2002 to bar tax defaulters from holding elected office. The ban, which has never been enforced, does not apply if the debtor is making payments to reduce the debt under a payment plan.
Martin Chandler, a retired accountant, denied that the couple owes the money claimed by the IRS. “We didn’t even make that much money,” he said. The alleged liability came about, he said, when the agency filed three substitute tax returns for the Chandlers to pressure him to cooperate with a criminal investigation. He said he filed three returns for those years that the IRS would not process.
Court records show the IRS in 2006 asked him to produce documents pertaining to a client’s tax liability. He refused, citing his client’s wishes and a court decision that he said allowed him to do so.
“That’s why they went sideways on me for those years and filed those substitute returns,” he said.
Earlier in 2006, the IRS filed a lien against the Chandlers for about $25,000 in unpaid taxes for the year 2000. (The lien against Martin Chandler was lifted in 2014 and against his wife several months later.)
In 2007, the agency imposed a second lien against the couple for about $345,000 for 2001 and 2002. When the lien was refiled in 2016, the liability for those years had grown to $519,000.
Chandler was jailed for contempt in 2008 for ignoring a court order to produce the documents sought by the IRS, records show. He was released about a week later after turning over the records.
But the couple’s tax debt remained. Chandler said they negotiated a payment plan to retire the larger debt as well as the $6,500 lien against his wife.
Records show Cherokee County also filed five liens for nearly $19,000 in unpaid property taxes on the Chandlers’ undeveloped one-acre tract there. All five liens were released when the tax bills for 2009 through 2012 and 2014 were paid off, generally a year or two late. Martin Chandler said the couple had no payment plan for that debt.
Facing opponents in both the primary and general elections this year, Joyce Chandler had banked barely $12,000 in her campaign fund as of April 1. Other Republican lawmakers scurried to her aid, though, pumping seven times that much into her account in the ensuing six months.
“I’ve been grateful for that,” Chandler told May. If the money helps win her another term, she can also thank Democrats who blocked a campaign-finance bill pushed by a Republican governor and Senate a decade ago.
Incumbents have been helping other incumbents stay in office as long as there have been elections. Transferring donations from one campaign to another, subject to contribution limits, is a major component of that support.
Sonny Perdue, who in 2003 became Georgia’s first GOP governor since Reconstruction, wanted to curb such donations, which critics saw as a tool that a majority party could use to stay in power. One of his ethics bills, passed that year by the Senate’s new GOP majority, would have barred candidates’ campaign funds from giving money to other candidates.
But Senate Bill 31 got tangled up in the House, where the Democrats were still in charge. The bill was amended to cap such transfers at $5,000 per election cycle but never got to the full House for a vote.
The House’s inaction left no limits on the practice, which has flourished since then. These days, as often as not, incumbents give to help colleagues fend off challenges within their own party.
Chandler, perhaps more than any other sitting legislator, has benefited from her colleagues’ largesse. Her campaign has raised $170,000 from other lawmakers, or nearly 70 percent of all her reported donations since 2012. That amount includes $85,000 since April 1 from House Republicans (and Congressman Tom Price).
Chandler said she has not solicited the contributions.
“I’ve not done anything,” she told me as he was out knocking on constituents’ doors. “I don’t know if it’s been initiated somewhere else, or it’s just legislators who know the makeup of my district.” Changing demographics, she noted, have split her district just about evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
The 2003 ethics bill’s ban on campaign-to-campaign donations came before her time in the Legislature, Chandler said, and she really has no position on it.
But, she added, “it’s probably something that should be looked at.”
- Elected to the House in 2012, winning the GOP primary 77-23% but the general election by just 51-49%.
- Re-elected in 2014, winning the general election 53-47%.
- Re-elected 53-47% in 2016 over Democratic challenger Donna McLeod.
- Appropriations (2017 – )
- Education (2013 – present)
- Higher Education (2015 – present)
- Juvenile Justice (2013 – present)
- Regulated Industries (2013 – present)
- Retired school counselor.
Business ownership interests
- None disclosed.
Other fiduciary positions
- Former executive director, Student Assistance Professionals Association of Georgia (dissolved 2013).
Real estate holdings
- Personal residence in Gwinnett County valued at $341,000.
- Townhouse in Destin, Fla.. valued at $181,000.
- Unimproved 1-acre commercial property in Cherokee County valued at $263,000.
- Valic Annuity.
Payments from state agencies
The state Department of Education in 2012 paid Chandler $4,500, which she disclosed properly.
Chandler has raised more than $251,000 in political donations since 2012. She’s also put $2,951 of her own money into the campaign, which has repaid $1,100. The breakdown by election cycle:
- 2012: $47,348
- 2013-14: $73,965
- 2015-16: $129,965
- Reported cash on hand (Oct. 2016): $8,580
- $172,251 House Speaker David Ralston & other Republican lawmakers
- $9,528 Michael Barker & Family, president House of Cheatham Inc., beauty & hair care products
- $4,000 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
- $3,375 Georgia Optometric Association
- $2,500 Altria / Philip Morris USA
- $2,251 Georgia Automobile Dealers Association
- $2,250 Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Georgia
- $1,550 Georgia Society of Anesthesiologists
- $1,500 American Federation for Children
- $1,500 Georgia Association of Educators
- $1,500 Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
Chandler’s campaign has reimbursed her $1,856 for expenses without specifying the end recipient, as required by state law.
Candidates may give campaign funds to other candidates, a practice that some say provides a legal means to circumvent contribution limits. A 2003 bill to ban such transfers altogether passed in the Senate but died in the House. Chandler’s campaign made these donations:
- 2013-14: $3,350
Since 2012, lobbyists have reported paying $791 for meals and other gifts for Chandler. The big spender:
- Georgia Association of Manufacturers ($141).
Committee days & travel expenses
When out of session, legislators may collect $173 per day plus mileage for committee meetings or other official business. Those living within 50 miles of the Capitol are taxed on these payments, originally intended to cover out-of-town members’ food and lodging.
- 2013: $563 (3 days)
- 2014: $3,137 (15 days)
- 2015: $5,730 (25 days)
Updated Jan. 15, 2017