The Rev. Al Sharpton, responding to new stories about his tangled finances, acknowledged Wednesday that he and his civil rights organization still owe back taxes and significant penalties but asserted that both were up-to-date in paying their "current" taxes.
Seeking to put a positive spin on the issues, Sharpton said he and his National Action Network have worked out installment payment plans to wipe out the tax debt.
Sharpton said that NAN owes about $400,000 in what were unpaid payroll taxes and an additional $400,000 in penalties -- down from about $1.9 million assessed in 2008. But when asked at a news conference what he currently owes in personal back taxes, interest and penalties, Sharpton answered "I don't know" and indicated he might not say even if he had the numbers on hand.
"We are paying current taxes and my current one [taxes], while keeping up with installments," Sharpton told reporters at NAN headquarters in Harlem. Sharpton said hoped to reduce more of the balances through negotiations.
In a story Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Sharpton at one point had more than $4.5 million in current state and federal tax liens against him and his for-profit business. Sharpton has two businesses, which the Times said face $717,329 in tax liens.
The story said Sharpton personally faced more than $3 million in federal tax liens and $777,657 in state liens. An IRS spokesman said he could not legally discuss individual taxpayer matters.
A spokesman for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said Wednesday that Sharpton had two current personal state liens totaling $779,577 and two totaling $457,968 for one of his private communications firm.
Those balances, including penalties, have actually risen over the years, the spokesman said. For privacy reasons, the spokesman couldn't discuss any payment plans.
Sharpton speculated new stories about his taxes were politically motivated because of his high profile and ties with Mayor Bill de Blasio and President Barack Obama.
"A lot of people don't like the fact that President Obama is the president, a lot of people do not like the fact that Bill de Blasio won for mayor, and they certainly don't like the fact that I am still here," said Sharpton.
NAN is a nonprofit group and owes no incomes taxes. But Sharpton said the organization's financial affairs went askew about the time he ran for president in 2004. Then the group got into a fight with the IRS over whether certain consultants and independent contractors should be considered employees of NAN and thus subjected to the payment of payroll taxes, he said.
Amid that 2006 tax dispute, Sharpton said, federal prosecutors launched a criminal probe into allegations of kickbacks and other irregularities but took no action.
"After negotiations in 2009, there was a signed document which worked out a payment plan to pay off those [debts]," said Sharpton, referring to the back federal taxes.
NAN's 2013 federal charitable organization filing showed the group had income of $4.9 million in contributions and grants against $5.1 million in expenses. Sharpton was paid a salary of $241,545.