Breaking News

Fact check: Al Sharpton, Stacey Abrams paid off individual back taxes

Chelsey Cox USA TODAY

Published 4:56 PM EDT Sep 12, 2020

The claim: Stacey Abrams and Al Sharpton owe over $50,000 in back taxes

Claims about civil rights activist and television host the Rev. Al Sharpton’s tax woes span several years. But Georgia politician Stacey Abrams’ history with the Internal Revenue Service became public discourse during her 2018 run for governor.

Abrams lost that election to Republican Brian Kemp. Sharpton, a Baptist minister and civil rights champion, hosts “PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton” on MSNBC. He ran for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

A claim on Facebook questioned both Sharpton’s and Abrams’ financial standing as two recognizable members of the Democratic Party. User Mark Pohl posted the meme to his account on July 2. It features an undated picture of Abrams and Sharpton standing side by side along with this statement: “Neither of these two Democrats have paid their taxes.”

Facebook user Geauchita Ward Cathcart reposted the meme on Aug. 27, with the caption, “Why does Stacey Abrams and Al Sharpton not have to pay their taxes? Are they above the law because they’re Black?”

In the caption, Pohl suggested Democrats receive less scrutiny for back taxes than President Donald Trump has in his time in office.

“And everyone screams about Trump owing taxes. Abrams owes over $50,000 in back taxes and Sharpton more,” Pohl wrote.

USA TODAY reached out to the users for comment.

More: Manhattan DA holds off on enforcing subpoena on Trump’s tax returns

Does Abrams owe the IRS over $50,000?

A 2018 financial disclosure showed Abrams owed about $54,000 to the IRS, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A 2018 attack ad funded by the Georgia Republican Party and approved by Kemp lambasted Abrams’ money management.

In the ad, Abrams was accused of making $1 million and using the money to fund her campaign instead of paying back the IRS, according to the AJC.

The ad closes with the comment, “Stacey Abrams — radical and corrupt. You pay higher taxes, not her.”

But financial disclosures from 2018 showed Abrams’ net worth was around $108,000. She said she deferred tax payments in 2015 and 2016 to help pay for her family’s medical expenses and entered a payment plan to settle the debts, according to the AJC. 

A spokesman for Abrams confirmed her tax debts were repaid in 2019.

“Leader Abrams has been able to resolve her debt and she will continue to speak openly about the challenges she faced — challenges that are all too common for Americans and their families,” Abrams’ spokesman Seth Bringman told the AJC.

Is Sharpton still indebted to the IRS?

Sharpton’s history with the IRS dates back to the late ’80s.

CNN reported that a jury acquitted him of 67 counts of tax evasion, larceny and fraud in 1989. In 1993, Sharpton plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge for failing to file state taxes for 1986, according to CNN.

In 2014, the New York Times wrote an extensive article about Sharpton’s tax obligations.

Records acquired by the Times showed more than $4.5 million in state and federal tax liens against Sharpton and his for-profit businesses, including a list of federal tax liens against Raw Talent as well as a New York State Tax Warrant against Revals Communications Inc. Both are businesses owned by Sharpton.

Sharpton also failed to pay federal tax on employees working for his civil rights organization, National Action Network, according to The Times.

During phone interviews in 2014, Sharpton said he was able to pay down some of his outstanding balances due to increased donor revenue to NAN, the Times reported. He also lent money to the organization and often refused a salary.

USA TODAY reached out to NAN for comment.

Sharpton dismissed the Times’ article as “misleading and totally out of context” during a 2014 news conference, and said he paid his taxes on a quarterly basis, according to Reuters.

The New York Post reported in 2019 that Sharpton retired his personal state tax debt, yet still owed nearly $700,000 in back taxes for three of his companies.

The IRS established over $2.8 million in liens against Sharpton from 1995-2010, according to the New York City Office of the City Register. The records indicate Sharpton has paid off over $2.1 million.

USA TODAY confirmed two tax warrants for $492,612.41 and $103,156.06 filed for Alfred Sharpton were satisfied on May 9, 2018, and June 5, 2019, respectively, according to the Tax Warrant Notice System for the State of New York.

Our rating: Partly false

We rate this claim PARTLY FALSE based on our research. The initial claim, posted this year, suggested Abrams and Sharpton owed over $50,000 in back taxes. But a representative for Abrams said she paid off her tax debt in 2019, making that part of the meme false. Sharpton also paid off his personal state tax debt, but still owes nearly $700,000 in back taxes for three for-profit businesses. So that part of the meme remains true.

Our fact-check sources:

  • USA TODAY, Dec. 13, 2018: “Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, narrowly defeated in race for governor, says she will ‘certainly’ run again”
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 17, 2019: “Abrams settles IRS debt as she preps for another run for office”
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nov. 1, 2018: “New Republican ad focuses on Abrams’ tax debt”
  • STATE OF GEORGIA FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE STATEMENT, March 9, 2018
  • The New York Times, Nov. 18, 2014: “As Sharpton Rose, So Did His Unpaid Taxes”
  • CNN, June 18, 2020: “Al Sharpton Fast Facts” 
  • The New York Post, Nov. 16, 2019: “Al Sharpton gets $1M in pay from his own charity”
  • National Action Network, retrieved Aug. 27, 2020: “About”
  • The New York Times, Nov. 20, 2014: “Federal Tax Liens against Al Sharpton and Raw Talent”
  • The New York Times, Nov. 20, 2014: “New York State Tax Warrant against Sharpton and Revals”
  • Reuters, Nov. 19, 2014: “Activist Sharpton denies New York Times report on unpaid taxes”
  • New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, retrieved Aug. 27, 2020: “New York State Delinquent Taxpayers Top 250 Individuals”
  • New York State Tax Warrant Notice System
  • New York City Department of Finance, Office of the City Register, retrieved Sept. 10, 2020: “Automated City Register Information System”

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

Published 4:56 PM EDT Sep 12, 2020

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *