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Lien filed against county attorney

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service has a more than $400,000 federal tax lien against Newton County Attorney Tommy Craig, who is the county's chief legal counsel.

The notice of the tax lien, filed in March, is on file in the Clerk of Superior Court's Office at the Newton County Judicial Center and is public record. The notice indicates that Craig failed to pay assessed taxes related to Form 941, the Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Form, which is used by employers to report employment taxes, withholding amounts, deposit amounts and amounts due to the IRS. The form requires a calculation of total taxes and total deposits made during the quarter. The difference between the total taxes due and total deposits is the amount owed to the IRS.

The notice gives an unpaid balance of assessment totaling $401,202.76 for tax periods ending June 30, 2008; Sept. 30, 2008; Dec. 31, 2008; March 31, 2009; June 30, 2009; and Sept. 30, 2009. The document says the IRS has a lien on all property belonging to Craig for the amount of unpaid taxes, including additional penalties, interest and costs that may accrue.

Craig said the matter is personal and that many other taxpayers are facing similar situations.

"At the time when the economy went south we were doing a lot of work for commercial developers in the north Georgia area ... We found ourselves in the position where we got behind," Craig said. He then stated an accountant had "failed to take care of it in a timely basis."

"I have made arrangements to take care of that and I'm sorry that it happened," he said. "I've hired an accountant to address that, and he is in the process of taking care of it. That's all I care to say. It's a personal matter."

Several attempts to reach Board of Commissioners Chairman Kathy Morgan for comment on behalf of the county were unsuccessful. In 2008, Newton County paid Craig's office $832,977.93 for legal services, according to information provided by the county in response to an Open Records Request. In 2009, the county paid $758,215.34. Year-to-date for 2010, the total is $852,084.88. The figures include miscellaneous costs such as reimbursements, shipping costs, mileage and court recorder fees.

"The IRS is not permitted to discuss a particular or specific taxpayer's tax matter or their taxes based on federal disclosure regulations and federal law," IRS spokesman Mark Green said. Regulations prevent disclosure of the current payoff figure and the account status, Green said.

According to general information provided by the IRS, a lien is similar to a mortgage in that it does not necessarily reflect the current balance due. The balance due reflected on the form can be unpaid tax, penalty, interest or any combination of the three. It is possible for the actual tax to have been fully paid but for a balance due, consisting of penalty and interest, to remain.

Liens give the IRS legal claim to property as a security or payment on tax debt. A Notice of Federal Tax Lien is filed after liability is assessed and the IRS sends a notice and demand for payment along with a bill indicating how much is owed, and the taxpayer does not fully pay the debt within 10 days of notification. The lien attaches to all property and rights to property, including accounts receivable for employers.

A spokeswoman for the Georgia Bar Association said the lien is a civil matter and will not result in sanctions or disbarment.