ALPHARETTA, Ga. — A candidate in the runoff election for Georgia secretary of state said Monday that much of the $130,000 in tax debt recorded in state records appear to be the result of state record-keeping errors or a misunderstanding with a former business partner’s company.
The candidate is still trying to verify a smaller amount of owed debt uncovered by Channel 2 Action News and our investigative partners at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and AJC.com.
State Rep. Brad Raffensperger explained that, until Channel 2 Action News called about the debt on Friday, he was unaware of the active liens tied to the personal and business properties in Mississippi and Georgia owned by him and his wife.
"Bottom line is: I don't owe anything," Raffensperger told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr.
Records verified by Channel 2 Action News and the AJC show roughly $124,000 in unpaid Mississippi sales taxes by Tendon Systems LLC, Raffensperger's construction company. The debt spans 2009-2011.
The candidate said he bought out a portion of the business in the early 2000s, and the debt appears to be tied to an old business partner running an LLC that bears the same name.
“It’s a totally different tax ID, so I don’t owe anything on that,” Raffensperger said, verifying two tax identification numbers associated with the company.
Channel 2 Action News and the AJC were not immediately able to verify that statement.
Raffensperger provided an active certificate from the Mississippi State Board of Contractors, noting he could not be in good standing with the state if he owed the money, which appeared to originate from a construction project the two companies worked on in the early 2000s.
Roughly $6,000 federal in tax debt tied to a company Raffensperger founded that’s now operated by his wife is tied to a misunderstanding involving the company’s obligation to pay payroll taxes, he said.
Raffensperger said the company, Trillium Structures, was actually exempt from Department of Labor taxes because it hasn’t had payroll in 2 ½ years. The company had not properly reported that to the federal government, and the business had moved. Raffensperger said the couple never received notices about an issue from the Department of Labor.
His attorney notified the state of the situation in a letter dated Monday, stating the company is in good standing and in compliance with all tax and wage reporting requirements.
"You had called and so we jumped on that one," Raffensperger told Channel 2 Action News. "You brought it to our attention and we took care of it and so we're in good standing."
It remains unclear whether about $5,000 in property tax debt in Gwinnett and Muscogee counties is legitimate.
Tax lien records show Raffensperger owes about $4,600 for 2005 property taxes in Muscogee County. Additionally, 2002 and 2003 records show he owes $446 in Gwinnett County for personal property taxes.
“No, I never heard about that before,” said Raffensperger, referring to the Gwinnett County debt.
In response to the Muscogee County debt, Raffensperger noted recent transactions that would not have been possible if he’d owed money on the property.
“All the liens, all the certificates have been paid,” he said. “So there’s no outstanding balances on that. So when you called, it actually surprised me because we refinanced the property in 2016 and you can never refinance (while) owing anything. You have to clean up your property taxes.”
On Monday afternoon, the candidate said he would investigate the debt on Tuesday.
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