Activist Sharpton denies New York Times report on unpaid taxes

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton on Wednesday dismissed as misleading a New York Times report that he owes millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and an organization he heads did not pay federal payroll taxes for its employees.

Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton speaks at the National Action Network about tensions leading up to a Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri and allegations of tax issues published in local media in New York November 19, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Times reported Sharpton and his for-profit business face state and federal tax liens of more than $4.5 million.

It said Sharpton travels first class, that he and his National Action Network repeatedly failed to pay hotels and landlords and his personal finances were intermingled with those of the non-profit NAN to pay his daughters’ private school tuition.

The accusations come as Sharpton has been in the spotlight speaking out in the aftermath of the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

“I would have to be the most inept charlatan in the world,” Sharpton said at a news conference, referring to the Times report saying he was drawing a high salary while his organization was struggling.

He called the Times story “misleading and totally out of context,” but said he did not know how much he owes in back taxes.

“I have paid my taxes on a quarterly basis,” he said.

NAN has used ADP, a payroll company, to handle payroll taxes since 2008, Sharpton said, and keeps to a previously agreed-upon schedule of payments with the government to pay back taxes. He also said he has loaned NAN money to cover unforeseen expenses.

Sharpton denied that he and NAN mixed finances to cover his daughters’ private schooling.

“There is not one dime that NAN paid to cover my daughters’ tuition,” he said.

Asked to respond, a Times spokeswoman said: “We stand by our story.”

Sharpton appears on MSNBC as a political commentator and has acted as an advocate in cases such as the Brown shooting and that of Eric Garner, who died after New York police put him in a banned chokehold.

He sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.

Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Mohammad Zargham