D.C. Council member Marion Barry serves on a finance committee overseeing the expenditure of billions of tax dollars, but continues having trouble making good on his own tax bill, records show.
The Internal Revenue Service has filed a notice of federal tax lien against Mr. Barry for more than $3,200 in unpaid federal income taxes for 2010, according to a document on file in the D.C. Office of the Recorder of the Deeds.
The filing comes less than two years after federal tax collectors filed a separate lien notice against the Ward 8 Democrat and former mayor, citing more than $15,000 in unpaid taxes from 2005 to 2008.
Neither of those tax notices is related to a guilty plea by Mr. Barry in 2005 in a misdemeanor tax case that involved unpaid taxes on more than $500,000 in income from 1999 to 2004.
Neither Mr. Barry nor his attorney responded to emails and phone calls Wednesday concerning the lien, which was filed with the deed office in September and was recently reviewed by The Washington Times.
The latest lien notice reads the same as the last one: “As provided by … the Internal Revenue Code, we are giving a notice that taxes (including interest and penalties) have been assessed against the following named taxpayer,” the lien states. “We have made a demand for payment, but it remains unpaid.”
Mr. Barry is hardly the only American facing IRS troubles. The agency filed nearly 1.1 million federal tax lien notices in 2010. But taxpayer watchdogs say anytime an elected official charged with overseeing tax dollars gets hit with a lien, especially repeatedly, constituents ought to be concerned.
“When it comes to tax liens, the IRS is not always on the side of angels, nor is it completely unheard of for the tax agency to pursue high-profile figures,” said Pete Sepp, vice president of the National Taxpayers Union.
“Still, allegations against elected officials about unpaid taxes can weigh heavily on constituents who’ve managed to keep their tax bills current. That’s especially the case in the District, where local taxes add considerably to the IRS’ demands,” he said.
More troubling, said David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, is the fact that Mr. Barry serves on the D.C. Council Committee on Finance and Revenue, which is responsible for taxation and revenue matters.
“It looks like a conflict of interest, it’s the fox guarding the henhouse,” Mr. Williams said. “When you have liens and IRS problems, you shouldn’t be on the finance committee.”
The IRS as a policy does not comment on matters involving individual taxpayers.
Mr. Barry’s more recent tax troubles haven’t impacted his criminal tax case, which resulted in a sentence of three years’ probation in March 2006. In 2009, prosecutors sought to have Mr. Barry jailed by asking U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson to revoke the council member’s probation.
Prosecutors argued that Mr. Barry had continued to fail to file his tax returns even after he pleaded guilty in the 2005 criminal case. The judge rejected the motion and extended Mr. Barry’s probation until March 2011.
Court records filed in the case show Mr. Barry had his paycheck garnished because of unpaid taxes. The criminal case stemmed from income Mr. Barry made while working as a private consultant.
He’s had other problems besides the IRS in recent years. He was censured by his colleagues on the council last year after a consultant’s report found he steered a contract to a girlfriend and tried to impede an investigation into the matter.
Despite his tax troubles, he easily won re-election in 2008. Last month, he filed papers to run for re-election, arguing that despite progress in recent years, unemployment remains at 35 percent in his Ward 8 district.
Saying he’s made public service his ministry, Mr. Barry pointed out that he is one of the longest serving local officials in the country.
“I’ve committed myself to bringing hope, resources and a big vision to the people of Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Barry said. “In these 31 years of public service, my work has touched every citizen, directly or indirectly, in the District of Columbia in a positive way.”