Georgia 2018: Abrams owes more than $50K to IRS

Democratic candidate for governor says she worked out payment plan with feds
House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams qualified to run for governor. BOB ANDRES/BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

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House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams qualified to run for governor. BOB ANDRES/BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Democrat Stacey Abrams owes more than $50,000 to the Internal Revenue Service and about $170,000 more in credit card and student loan debt, according to personal financial disclosure documents the candidate for governor released this week.

The documents show Abrams, a former House minority leader, has a net worth of about $110,000 that includes a recent $150,000 advance for an upcoming book on leadership.

The campaign said in a statement that Abrams deferred her tax payments in 2015 and 2016 because she was helping to pay her family’s expenses and that she is on a payment plan with the IRS for the $54,000 she owes.

Abrams spokeswoman Priyanka Mantha said the candidate “has faced financial challenges while working to support her family” and that the experience will help her inform her decisions in the state’s highest office.

Abrams has highlighted the string of small businesses she's started in her race to succeed a term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal. She's also come under scrutiny for drawing a $177,000 salary in 2014 for her role as a part-time chief executive for the voter-registration project she started.

Most of the roughly $520,000 in assets she reported, though, were tied up in her Atlanta townhouse and her book advance. She had about $11,000 in cash and bank accounts.

Beyond her mortgage and the IRS debt, Abrams’ liabilities include $96,000 owed for student loans during her time at Yale Law School and about $76,000 in additional credit card debt.

Abrams, 44, has said that mounting credit card debt when she was a student at Spelman College hurt her credit score and that she struggled to help her elderly parents in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Even though she earned a healthy salary as a lawyer, she wrote, she “rearranged my financial life and stretched every penny I had” to respond to the crisis.

"While delaying tax payments wasn't my smartest move, it allowed me to take care of the parents who'd sacrificed so much for me and my siblings," she wrote. "I remain committed to their financial stability to this day, and I continue to work hard to meet all of my obligations."

Abrams raised roughly $2.3 million through January for her campaign for governor, and has spent about 80 percent of that sum to hire staff and security, lease and outfit her campaign headquarters and travel costs. She has also loaned her campaign $50,000.

Republicans have already sought to paint Abrams and her Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Stacey Evans, as liberals eager to raise taxes. And the GOP seems likely to seize on the IRS debt in the general election, though rival campaigns were initially mum about the development.

“It’s definitely fodder for the Republicans to go after,” said Michael Owens, the Cobb County Democratic chair, who added that Abrams’ financial struggles could also help her connect to voters.

Evans reported a net worth of roughly $5.2 million in her financial disclosure, thanks partly to a victory in a Medicaid fraud lawsuit.

The 39-year-old has $6.7 million in assets - mostly in property and stock holdings - and $1.5 million in liabilities. Her debt largely consists of mortgages and an outstanding $45,000 student loan.

Evans’ report shows there’s a limit to the notion that she can self-finance her campaign through November. She has already pumped roughly one-quarter of her net worth - about $1.2 million - into the race.

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