How do I find the details of a business's unpaid federal tax bills?
July 8, 2013 8:05 AM   Subscribe

A local politician has an unpaid $500,000 tax bill associated with a business he owns. I'd like to find out more details on this.

The business's unpaid tax bill was reported in the local paper when the person was first elected, but the person is running for re-election and the paper is treating the issue as if it is old news. The politician has admitted that an unpaid balance still exists, but there's been no disclosure about repayment or how much balance remains. As far as I can tell, the business in question has closed.

How can a regular citizen find the details of the unpaid tax bill?

I believe the bill stems from unpaid FICA contributions for the politician's employees. I'd like to confirm this as that information was not reported in the original report.
posted by foggy out there now to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You may have to file a Freedom of Information Act request. To get this information from the Federal Internal Revenue Service.

It won't be fast, and you may not get all the information you want.

The website I've linked to gives you the low down.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:45 AM on July 8, 2013

Memail me if you want; I can probably give you a couple of tips on how best to get this info. Highly dependent on what state you live in.
posted by Mr. Justice at 9:07 AM on July 8, 2013

It really depends on what state you live in and whether it's a state or federal tax issue. I do this stuff for a living and it can be maddening trying to track it down. If you have access to a research database like Lexis-Nexis I would start there. They have tax lien information for some states and the feds. If you're comfortable revealing where you are I can try to help. Or MeMail me if you'd rather keep it private.
posted by fancypants at 9:22 AM on July 8, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments so far. I've sent Memail with my location. Thanks for the help!
posted by foggy out there now at 12:01 PM on July 8, 2013

One thing not yet mentioned: Whether the business is in bankruptcy or receivership. Again, could be state, could be federal. [If the latter, the case would be publicly accessible, for pennies in login charges, via PACER. It can be useful to have an account anyway.] As a business it is likely he is to some degree insulated from liability for this debt, but in bankruptcy there are options for creditors to claw back monies taken out of the business or reach through the corporate veil and hold him personally liable. As a taxing body, the government owed this debt will be near the front of the line for collecting anything from the business, but behind secured creditors (e.g. mortgagors). The final determination of the bankruptcy will determine how much of it is paid back from the remaining assets of the business, if any.

It is also possible, given the slim facts you have, that the debt was discharged (through a completed bankruptcy). It would not be entirely inaccurate to say this tax bill was "owed", but it would be inoperative legally, as the discharge means there is no more possibility to collect from the bankrupt entity.

A friend ran for office and faced questions about his own bankruptcy and foreclosure [related, note, to a divorce from someone whose coke-addled boyfriend is now in prison for solicitation of a hit man against my pal] and some raked him over the coals for "not paying the bank what he owed" even though he had in every legal sense satisfied that debt by losing the house.

I don't know your guy and I'm not rushing to his defense, I'm just pointing out there are other potential circumstances in which this debt may fall and potentially not be "owed" in any enforceable sense.

As far as I can tell, the business in question has closed.

You can very often use a state website to look up the status of a registered business entity. It will note at the least a business's agent, perhaps its officers, and whether it is active or in some other status.

There is no possibility of getting the reporter to speak with you "off the record", letting you know what the paper knows, but isn't willing to print?
posted by dhartung at 3:35 AM on July 9, 2013

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