In a scathing piece published by National Review Online earlier this month, author Jillian Kay Melchior updates a timeline of the “Rev.” Al Sharpton’s checkered tax history – an account that followed an in depth piece by The New York Times (NYT) published just after the November elections.
Her analysis and the NYT piece were based on public records of corporate filings, tax notices and liens, the mixing of funds between himself, his for-profit companies and non-profit organizations and even a nearly $1 million in unpaid debt from his failed 2004 presidential campaign.
In all, Sharpton and his various organizations have been under investigation continuously alone or in combination by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the states of New York and Delaware and the Federal Election Commission since 1991 – the year Sharpton founded his for-profit company called Raw Talent and his non-profit National Action Network (NAW).
When Melchior asked for an informed opinion on Sharpton’s tax situation based on public documents, Bernadette Schopfer, Director of Taxation at New York’s Maier Markey & Justic, a certified public-accounting firm, said:
“He clearly appears – based on the information that’s available to us – to have a history of noncompliance with tax obligations”…“It appears that [Sharpton] does not file [taxes for his businesses], and then opens up something else. At all the entities, we see he has opened up, he has not been compliant with the obligations of the owner of a business.”
His tax problems began 1993 when Sharpton entered a guilty plea for the misdemeanor of failing to file his New York State income-tax return. All totaled, Sharpton personally owes New York State nearly $596,000, according to active tax warrants.
That was followed by Sharpton’s first company Raw Talent – a venture he set up in part to manage his speaking fees – that was shuttered in 2002 after failing to pay taxes but not before Sharpton opened Revel Communications (also dissolved) that failed to either file or pay taxes from 1999 – 2002. Raw Talent and Revals Communications owe from $717,000 to more than $800,000, based on state and federal tax liens examined by NRO and the NYT,
Then there is the issue of non-payment of creditors by his various enterprises and the National Action Network. According to the NYT:
“Mr. Sharpton and the National Action Network have repeatedly failed to pay travel agencies, hotels and landlords. He has leaned on the generosity of friends and sometimes even the organization, intermingling its finances with his own to cover his daughters’ private school tuition.”
Sharpton also set up two companies — Sharpton Media Group and Bo Spanky – that made substantial loans to the National Action Network but were never paid back creating losses for his for-profit businesses.
National Action Network tax filings show balances owed to the Sharpton Media Group of $119,620 from 2010 – 2012 while these same tax filings show balances owed to Bo Spanky of $332,236 during the same period.
In NAW’s latest tax filings for 2013, the loans from Bo Spanky and Sharpton Media Group disappear only to be replaced by loans made directly from Sharpton himself of $328,881 – possibly lowering his personal gross income on which state and federal taxes are calculated and paid.
All told, Sharpton’s unpaid personal tax liability comes to about $4.5 million – a number that Elizabeth MacDonald of FOXBusiness reports have sent those owing much less in federal taxes to jail including:
James Brown (aka Mr. Dynamite, aka Godfather of Soul, aka Soul Brother Number One)
In 1968 the IRS informed Brown that he owed nearly $2 million and eventually added $4.5 million to the tab. Already Soul Brother No. 1 and owner of several radio stations, homes, cars, and even a plane, the government snatched a chunk of his property to settle debts. His troubles continued throughout his career. Brown, already serving time for armed robbery, tacked on more time to his sentence thanks evasion of the tax man.
Chuck Berry ($200,000)
In 1979, the rock legend served a five-month sentence at California’s Lompoc Prison Camp after he was found guilty of evading $200,000 in taxes. Berry was also ordered to do 1,000 hours of community service upon his release.
Pete Rose ($354,968)
In 1990, the former Cincinnati Red star and manager pleaded guilty to two felony charges of filing false federal tax returns. Rose spent five months in a Marion, Ill., federal prison; he was also fined $50,000. Rose had failed to report on his tax returns $354,968 in income from selling memorabilia and autographs, as well as personal appearances (his gambling resulted in a lifetime ban from baseball).
Richard Hatch ($1 million+)
In 2006, this “Survivor” reality star was convicted of tax evasion and tax fraud for failing to pay taxes on his $1 million-plus in “Survivor” winnings. Hatch was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison. He served just over three years before his release in 2009. Hatch was then ordered to refile his 2000 and 2001 tax returns, but did not do so. He was eventually ordered back to jail in 2011 to serve nine months, and left jail on supervised release. By that time, together with penalty and interest, Hatch owed close to $2 million in back taxes.
Leona Helmsley ($1.7 million)
In 1992, a federal judge sentenced Leona Helmsley to four years in prison”…”after her tax evasion conviction. The billionaire real estate heiress was charged with avoiding $1.2 million in taxes after claiming $2.6 million in ineligible business expenses, including personal items. Helmsley also was ordered to do 750 hours of community service and was slapped with a $7.1 million fine. Helmsley served 21 months and was released in January 1994. She was quoted by her maid at trial as saying: “We don’t pay taxes, only little people pay taxes.”
Ron Isley ($3.1 million)
In 2006, the lead singer of The Isley Brothers (“Who’s That Lady”) was found guilty of five counts of tax evasion and one count of willful failure to file tax returns for tax years 1997–2002, amounting to $3.1 million not reported. Isley was sentenced to three years and one month, served three years behind bars, and was released in April 2010.”