published Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Gingrich firms pay $6,000 tax liens

ATLANTA — Companies run by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich have faced overdue tax bills in four states worth more than $6,000, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press.

The tax liens, which generally allow governments to seize assets or property to settle tax bills, ranged in size from a $195 property tax bill in the Atlanta suburbs to $1,969 in unpaid Missouri taxes.

Most of the liens were paid shortly after tax authorities filed them.

One exception was in Pennsylvania, where Gingrich Holdings Inc. last week paid off a $1,599 lien for unpaid corporate income taxes just days before Gingrich formally announced he would run against Democratic incumbent Barack Obama. Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler said Gingrich and his firms were unaware of most of the tax liens until being contacted this week by the AP.

“When an issue has arisen, we’re anxious to resolve the issue and get the taxes paid,” Tyler said. “We want to be in compliance with all the states.”

Georgia State University professor Jack Williams, who teaches multistate taxation, said he most commonly sees liens filed against businesses in financial distress. Other contributing factors could be poor record-keeping or aggressive tax collectors.

“The lien stage is about as deep into the process you get before the taxing authority seizes your assets and sells that,” Williams said.

Until deciding to run for president, Gingrich was the CEO of Gingrich Holdings Inc., the parent company of firms that manage his book and TV contracts, produce documentary films, offer consulting services and oppose Obama’s health care overhaul. Tyler said Gingrich’s businesses are financially healthy.

Last week, Gingrich Holdings paid off a lien worth $1,599 for corporate income taxes that court records show dates back to 2002. Pennsylvania Department of Revenue spokeswoman Elizabeth Brassell said privacy laws forbid her from discussing the case.

Tyler said the problem appears to have started in 2002 when state officials rejected a tax return on a technicality. While the company believed it had satisfied the bill, it paid off the lien earlier this month after learning of the remaining balance, Tyler said.

In 2009, a Gingrich Holdings subsidiary paid $2,654 in Missouri tax liens for unpaid withholdings taxes and sales or use tax. Court documents show Gingrich’s company still faces a $688 lien for more withholding taxes, although Tyler said Gingrich’s company previously paid the bill and blamed state officials for failing to note the payment. He said Gingrich’s company expects to receive paperwork from Missouri officials acknowledging the payment in several days.

Missouri Department of Revenue spokesman Ted Farnen said privacy laws ban him from discussing the case.

One of Gingrich’s now-defunct businesses, Gingrich Enterprises Inc., faced a flurry of tax liens in Indiana. It satisfied some and believes the rest are paperwork problems.

In 2002, records show Gingrich Enterprises resolved Indiana tax liens totaling $1,349. Tyler said he did not know Friday what caused those tax bills. Gingrich had delivered speeches in the state before and after the liens were issued and may have received speaking fees. The company filed paperwork in Georgia showing it was dissolving in November 2002. The next month, Indiana officials filed the first of 43 more liens against the company.

Tyler said Gingrich officials alerted Indiana this week that the company went out of business in late 2002 and never owed state taxes after that. He said Gingrich expects to receive a letter from Indiana officials acknowledging that decision shortly.

Indiana Department of Revenue spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland said she could not discuss the case, citing confidentiality laws.

Business records show the mailing address for the firm was a post office box and the home of Gingrich’s ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich. She said she previously alerted Indiana officials that the company closed and supplied them with ways to contact her ex-husband. She now throws away some of the bills.

“If Indiana really wanted money from him, they could find him,” she said.

Associated Press news researcher Judith Ausuebel in New York and reporter Charles Wilson in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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