Tax officials have a message for Rev. Al Sharpton: pay up. The IRS has filed personal liens against Sharpton totaling nearly $1 million (the actual value of the lien as of last spring was $931,397). Sharpton also owes nearly $365,558 to the City of New York for unpaid personal income tax; his for-profit company, Rev. Al Communications, currently owes the state of New York $175,962 in delinquent taxes.
And that may be only the top of the iceberg. A current investigation by the U.S. attorney into the finances of Sharpton’s nonprofit group, National Action Network, may yield more.
The nonprofit organization has been messy with their finances over the past few years. The group does not deny that there may be inaccuracies with respect to their reporting and they agree that they had failed to file timely tax returns as required (which have now reportedly been filed). But Charlie King, the acting executive director for National Action Network, blames the group’s successes for their troubles. He says that the organization was not prepared for the sizable increases in donations and income but denies that the failure to account for the donations was purposeful. King told the AP:
The infrastructure was trying to keep up with that pace, and it was not a perfect fit. The National Action Network may not have been perfect, but nothing was going on that was untoward.
What level of income are we talking? Donations to the organization reportedly top $1 million each year. Donors have included such corporate giants as Anheuser-Busch, which gave more than $100,000 last year, and politicians such as New York Gov. David Paterson, Rep. Charles Rangel, and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, each of whom have donated thousands of dollars.
The National Action Network is reportedly also being investigated by the FBI and the IRS for its part in Sharpton’s failed 2004 presidential bid. The investigation is thought to focus on whether Sharpton or the organization committed tax crimes or violations during his campaign; he was previously forced to return public matching funds for breaking fundraising rules during his candidacy.
Investigations into Sharpton’s charities and his personal finances are nothing new. In addition to the current liabilities, Sharpton has failed to file returns on at least one other occasion: he plead guilty for failing to file a state tax return. Nearly 20 years ago, he escaped additional charges when was acquitted of tax fraud and allegations that he stole from one of his charities.
As for Sharpton now? Despite the investigations, he remains upbeat. He claims that these investigations are simply reactions to his presence as a civil rights leader. “Whatever retaliation they do on me, we never stop. I think that that is why they try to intimidate us.”
Adding fuel to that argument is the fact that, in the latest probe, the official overseeing the investigation is U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell. Campbell is the Brooklyn-based prosecutor whom Sharpton is urging to file federal criminal charges in the Sean Bell shooting. Campbell’s office has refused to comment on any of the investigations.
Interesting, no? What do you think? Are the feds overstepping their boundaries to “get back” at Sharpton? Or is he, in fact, crooked?
(Hat Tip: Tax Prof Blog)