ATLANTA — The State of Georgia has come to a huge tax settlement with reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley, with tax experts calling the significant decrease in money owed a part of commonly negotiated cases.
The Georgia Department of Revenue went after the Chrisleys for more than $2 million following a 2017 Channel 2 investigation centered around the couple's claims that they were Florida residents, and did not owe Georgia income taxes for a span of several years.
In a closing agreement dated Sept. 27, the state ended up settling with the Chrisleys for about $147,000.
The couple had already started paying back the debt, and were given five days to settle the remaining debt.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr took the settlement agreement to Atlanta tax attorney Alyssa Maloof Whatley and Josh Simpson, a Woodstock-based CPA and owner of Simpson & Simpson Accounting.
"It's not uncommon to see a huge liability go down once you're filing the correct returns. In additions with refunds ... In addition with abatements …" said Whatley. "This is a completely normal tax case."
"It's a mathematical equation to see how much they can afford to pay," said Simpson, "And when the State of Georgia really needs money they're obviously going take $100,000 now versus a thousand dollars over time.".
Whatley, who represents clients in similar, multimillion dollar cases said the state would have calculated the $2 million debt from returns they filed on the Chrisleys when they discovered through IRS filings that state returns were not filed by the couple.
"They (the state) make their best guesstimate based off the information that's been given to them," said Whatley. "If they're having to do it for you, they're just going to say ‘OK, this is your income, this is the tax you owe."
But until the Chrisleys came to the table with information on deduction, and income loss, none of that critical information would have been taken into account to calculate the proper debt. The incorrect amount would have also incurred penalties and fees over several years.
With both parties coming to the table, filing and auditing the correct returns, the couple was off the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in single year periods.
"It took it from 292 (thousand) to 176 (thousand)," Whatley said, looking at a 2009 return period for Todd Chrisley. "And for Julie it took it from $415,000 to $47,000 roughly."
Whatley said returns were also applied to the debt. The agreement indicates the couple was already in the middle of paying down the taxes, as well.
Both Whatley and Simpson say licensed professionals are needed to support taxpayers in these sorts of agreements, and Georgia is generally willing to negotiate debts and cut down on penalties when debtors come to the table.
"A good deal is when both sides feel a little bit uncomfortable," said Whatley.
"Georgia had to give up a little bit and the other side had to come forward to make it happen."
PENDING FEDERAL CASE
The Chrisleys are hoping the state settlement helps support their defense in a separate, federal case.
The couple, alongside their former Roswell CPA Peter Tarantino, are facing a multicount federal indictment to include charges of tax evasion, wire and bank fraud and conspiracy.
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