Report: Al Sharpton owes $4.5 million in taxes

Credit: George Mathis

Credit: George Mathis

Ben Franklin was a very quotable fellow.

One quote you've likely heard is "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

Ol' Ben never met fellow quotable fellow Al Sharpton, who, according to a New York Times article , has outstanding tax liens totaling more than $4.5 million.

At a recent event held for his 60th birthday, the preacher, activist and current MSNBC host said during his long career he has "been able to reach from the streets to the suites."

He hasn't had to reach into his pockets much though.

The extensive NYT article says Sharpton "has regularly sidestepped the sorts of obligations most people see as inevitable, like taxes, rent and other bills."

Sharpton, a protege of Jesse Jackson, rose to prominence in the 1980s, largely by organizing protests against police, who he alleged did not do enough to prosecute suspects charged with crimes against black victims.

The most notorious such case involved Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old girl who said she had been raped by white police officers. Brawley was found smeared with feces, wearing burned clothes and had racial epithets written on her body with charcoal. She was wrapped in a trash bag.

A grand jury decided Brawley made the story up.

Sharpton then accused the prosecutor of being racist and being part of the alleged crime. The prosecutor sued Sharpton for defamation and won. Sharpton refused to pay the fine, which eventually was paid by famed attorney Johnny Cochran.

The New York Times article says Sharpton also seems unwilling to pay payroll taxes on employees working for his non-profit organization, National Action Network.

The habit of not paying doesn't stop with taxes. Sharpton and the National Action Network "have repeatedly failed to pay travel agencies, hotels and landlords," the newspaper writes.

In a CNN article , Sharpton "blasted" the report, saying he owed $4.5 million in 2008 but has been making regular payments.

The state of New York says Sharpton owes $220,000 more in 2014 than he did in 2008. The IRS would not reveal exactly how much Sharpton now owes.

"If we owed $4.5 million in '08 then how could we owe this now, unless you're saying that everybody just went to sleep on this and just gave us a pass, which is ridiculous," Sharpton said in the CNN article.

Sharpton has friends in high places.

Recently, he was at the side of President Obama when he announced the nomination of Loretta Lynch to become the next attorney general of the United States.

At his 60th birthday party, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hailed Sharpton as a civil rights icon. President Obama sent an aide to read a message commending Sharpton’s “dedication to the righteous cause of perfecting our union.”

Major corporations sponsored the lavish birthday party. They paid so much National Action Network netted more than $1 million, enough to allegedly clear up the organization’s tax debts.

Sharpton says he's the victim of politics, and the negative story by the New York Times comes just as a grand jury is about to release its findings in the shooting of Michael Brown by a white Ferguson, Mo., police officer.

"Every time there's a Sean Bell or a Ferguson or a Trayvon Martin, we go through my taxes. It's the same agreement y'all. It's the same thing we announced in '09. It is the same thing we've been paying every month," he said.

That's possible. But it's also possible the tax story keeps coming up because the tax bill is going up.

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