- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2012

D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown serves on a powerful finance committee overseeing the expenditure of billions in local and federal tax dollars, but the at-large independent lawmaker is facing renewed questions about his own tax liabilities.

In recent weeks, the Internal Revenue Service filed a notice of federal tax lien totaling $20,000 against Mr. Brown, citing income taxes for the period ending Dec. 31, 2010. The document stated, “We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid.”

It’s not the first time Mr. Brown has heard from federal tax collectors. Two years ago, the IRS filed a separate lien notice citing more than $50,000 in income taxes due for 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

The latest IRS filing shows that Mr. Brown’s money troubles aren’t behind him even as he ascends to a more powerful spot on the council and portrays questions over his tax troubles as old news.

“My current payment plan includes several tax years,” Mr. Brown, who was picked by colleagues as chairman pro-tempore this week, said in a phone interview Thursday.

“It’s not new news.”

Two years ago, Mr. Brown told The Washington Times he was close to paying off more than $50,000 listed on a 2010 IRS lien notice, which referred to the 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008 tax periods. He said at the time he’s never missed a payment on his installment plan.

But that repayment plan would not have included 2010 liabilities because that tax year hadn’t ended yet. And the latest IRS lien notice, listing $20,003, only cites income tax from the tax period ending Dec. 31, 2010.

Mr. Brown said he’s never missed filing a tax return with the IRS or the D.C. government, noting that he’s up to date on his local taxes.

Asked whether he’s concerned about the public perception of a lawmaker serving on the finance committee with tax troubles, he said, “The voters vetted me on the issues and they were satisfied.”

Back in 2010, Mr. Brown also said of his earlier tax lien, “Nothing has been done wrong, zero.” He portrayed his situation as no different from millions of other Americans working to payoff taxes through IRS installment plans.

But the questions, like the tax liens, haven’t gone away completely.

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange, at large Democrat, referred to Mr. Brown’s tax troubles during a contentious debate this week over Mr. Brown’s selection to the council’s No. 2 post.

According to city records, the IRS filed yet another lien against Mr. Brown last year. That notice listed 2009 income taxes for $13,773, though demand has since been satisfied, records show.

D.C. Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, has also had tax problems, though his were more serious. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor tax charge.

A lien notice doesn’t mean the IRS is garnishing Mr. Brown’s wages or that tax collectors are seizing any of his assets or property, but it does give the IRS a legal claim to his property to make sure his debts are fully paid.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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