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Abrams’ nonprofit faces new liens; she calls them ‘contractor error’

State regulators filed three liens worth about $3,500 in the past year against a nonprofit created by Stacey Abrams. The Democrat said through a spokeswoman that the liens were “entirely due to third-party contractor error” and that records still haven’t been updated despite timely payments.

The filings involve Third Sector Development, an organization that Abrams created in 1998 that was slapped with four tax liens worth $13,000 between 2014 and 2016 citing unpaid unemployment contributions.

Her campaign for governor told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in February 2018 that a withholding error from a payroll service was to blame, and records show those liens remain pending.

Since then, the state has filed three additional liens also claiming a failure to pay state unemployment taxes. The first was filed in February for roughly $1,400, then came an August lien for $986 followed by a November lien for about $1,200.

An Abrams spokeswoman, Caitlin Highland, said the initial liens were incurred because the payroll service mistakenly paid federal unemployment insurance instead of state unemployment insurance. The pending liens have been paid, she said, though paperwork to reflect that hasn’t yet been filed by state officials.

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Highland provided two emails sent Monday from a supervisor in the state Department of Labor who wrote that he was aware of the issue and that officials were “just now making the needed corrections.”

“They are working closely with Department of Labor staff to correctly credit the accounts,” Highland said, “and bring this matter to closure.”

Highland said the vendor has paid the correct amount each quarter since the first round of liens were filed, but that the sum was applied to past liens instead of toward new taxes due. That triggered the new liens, she said.

Since her narrow loss in the governor’s race to Brian Kemp, Abrams has emerged as an even higher-profile national figure. She delivered the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week and is weighing a 2020 challenge against U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

Here’s Highland’s full statement:

“In spite of timely payments to Georgia, Third Sector Development is awaiting final action from the Department of Labor to fully resolve this matter. Last year, Third Sector took steps immediately to satisfy liens imposed for unemployment insurance paid to the federal rather than state government, due entirely to third party contractor error. Unfortunately, the process has taken several months and remains unresolved. However, while the organization has waited for a resolution, Third Sector Development has made timely payments to Georgia; however, under the department rules, these recent payments have been applied to the past liens and not counted towards new taxes due, as they should. They are working closely with DoL staff to correctly credit the accounts and bring this matter to closure.”

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.

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