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Apr 19, 2010 4:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

IRS says Southampton Town comptroller owes $650,000 in back taxes

Editor's Note: This story was corrected on April 22. The IRS gave Ms. Wright until April 15 to hand in documentation proving that she does not owe taxes. Mr. Wright said the levy on her wages has been permanently lifted.
Apr 19, 2010 4:42 PM

Southampton Town Comptroller Tamara Wright owes the Internal Revenue Service more than $650,000, and the federal tax collection agency has already tried twice to garnishee her wages—once in October and again in February—to start making good on the debt.

But the town’s top financial officer said she does not know why the IRS filed a $651,316 lien against her last July, adding that she has all the information necessary to show that she does not owe any money. In October, Ms. Wright said that IRS officials agreed to give her additional time to prove that she does not owe the money, and was surprised when they returned to Town Hall in February, again threatening to garnishee her wages.

Ms. Wright said she now has until tax day—Thursday, April 15—to prove that she does not owe any money to the IRS.

According to the Suffolk County clerk’s website, the lien was filed against Ms. Wright in July, but the comptroller said she never received any notices about the action until late October, when an IRS agent went to the town attorney’s office to try to garnishee her wages. Ms. Wright, who earns $115,000 per year, said she had no idea the lien existed until October, and, as a result, did not list it on her 2009 financial disclosure form filed with the town, as she was required to do.

Ms. Wright’s financial disclosure form, which was not notarized, dated or signed, was not filed with the town clerk’s office until April 1, 2010—10 months after it was due, and six months after the IRS attempted to lay claim to a portion of her salary. The document was filed on the same day that The Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking a copy of Ms. Wright’s financial disclosure form.

New town employees are supposed to file their forms with the town clerk’s office within 30 days of their hiring, according to Assistant Town Attorney Joe Burke. Ms. Wright was hired as a town employee on June 1, 2009.

The copy of Ms. Wright’s 2009 financial disclosure form obtained by The Press appears to have been hastily filed—it was never notarized, as required by the town, and has a number of outstanding questions on it, some of which appear to be written on Post-It notes and stuck on the form in place of answers to questions.

Ms. Wright said she gave the financial disclosure form, which still contained a number of unanswered questions, to her assistant less than two weeks after she was named comptroller. She said the original form, which was never notarized, is “nowhere to be found,” and that the copy now on file with the clerk’s office is actually a photocopy of the form that she had with her personal records.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said she told the Town Board about Ms. Wright’s lien in an executive session following a work session about three weeks ago, just days after Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray told her about it. Ms. Murray said that an IRS official dropped off a notice on February 23 stating that the agency “is putting a levy on Ms. Wright’s wages, salary and other income,” she said.

That levy has been temporarily lifted until April 15, Ms. Wright said. The comptroller explained that she hopes that she, her attorneys and accountants are able to prove that she does not owe the $651,316 before then. Ms. Wright said she does not know what will happen after she provides the IRS with proof that she paid her taxes.

The taxes the IRS claims Ms. Wright owes date back to 2002 and 2003, when Ms. Wright was working as a chief operating officer in the financial industry in the United Kingdom. Ms. Wright—who said she has always hired someone to file her taxes—said that preparing tax returns that involve multiple countries or income earned outside of the United States are “very complex.”

She added that she had “high-quality” and “reputable” accountants file her taxes during those years. Ms. Wright—who added that the divorce she is going through has complicated the IRS proceedings—declined to say who her accountants were in 2002 and 2003, the years that raised red flags at the IRS.

At least one Town Board member, Chris Nuzzi, said he thinks Ms. Wright should have told him and other board members about the debt sooner, especially considering that former Supervisor Linda Kabot, former Town Attorney Dan Adams, Town Management Services Administrator Richard Blowes, and Deputy Supervisor Bill Jones knew in October about a “dispute” that Ms. Wright was having with the IRS. Mr. Blowes, Mr. Jones and Ms. Kabot said they did not know that the dispute involved more than $650,000 in owed taxes.

Ms. Wright said she was surprised that Ms. Kabot, who was supervisor at the time, and Mr. Blowes did not know the total amount of her lien, adding that it was printed on the document dropped off at Town Hall by the IRS.

Some of the other Town Board members, meanwhile, said that Ms. Wright should have made sure that they were aware of the tax lien.

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Amazing. You can't make this stuff up.
By zaz (194), East Hampton on Apr 14, 10 2:32 PM
what's so amazing? the secretary of the treasury of the united states tim geithner had the same problem. didn't pay us taxes on foreign earnings.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Apr 14, 10 3:30 PM
That's the right track to take. Just follow the example of the IRS (and some local newspapers) and consider someone guilty until proven innocent. Fair and balanced - isn't that what the IRS is all about?
By EastEndHomie (27), Southampton on Apr 14, 10 4:43 PM
Please. Read what I said before you get all defensive. Am I the only one to see the irony of the garnishment landing on the desk of the top finance person in the town... to garnish her own pay? And $651 thousand to boot! But even if one looks past the alledged tax issue, it's also telling how the financial disclosure form / process was handled: "... not notarized, dated or signed, was not filed with the town clerk’s office until April 1, 2010—10 months after it was due, and six months after the ...more
By zaz (194), East Hampton on Apr 14, 10 5:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
The IRS gives plenty of notice before enfocement action commences. When a lien is filed it is your first clue to take action, quickly. Too many times politicians do not comply with laws until someone catches them. If Tim Geithner had applied to the IRS through normal channels, he would not have made it through the front door. Employees of the IRS must be and remain compliant with all filings and taxes in order to keep their jobs. The IRS is the only Federal Department that must meet this standard. ...more
By mastercylinder1 (2), Aquebogue on Apr 14, 10 6:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
The IRS gives plenty of notice before enforcement action commences. When a lien is filed it is your first clue to take action, quickly. Too many times politicians do not comply with laws until someone catches them. If Tim Geithner had applied to the IRS through normal channels, he would not have made it through the front door. Employees of the IRS must be and remain compliant with all filings and taxes in order to keep their jobs. The IRS is the only Federal Department that must meet this standard. ...more
By mastercylinder1 (2), Aquebogue on Apr 14, 10 6:21 PM
You better believe that the IRS notified her months ago and most likely sent many, many letters certified.
Why didn't the SH Town Ethics Board look into the fact that Ms. Wright's financial disclosure was not filed on time? This is a requirement by town law. This financial disclosure was purposely not dated or signed and for Ms. Wright to put blame on one of her assistants is a disgrace. She needs to take responsibility for her screw up.
Was Ms. Wright tipped off by the SH Town Clerks ...more
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Apr 14, 10 7:59 PM
3 members liked this comment
Innocent until proven guilty
By yearrounder (208), Southampton on Apr 14, 10 8:31 PM
The nitwits at the IRS tried to tell me I had $35k worth of securities a few years back, when I was buying and selling stock.

The only numbers they had were the purchases, no sales.

So, of course, I owed them a $***load of money for 35k worth of stock I didn't even own, just bought and sold at a wash.

And to think, it's our taxes that pay for a system that only collected HALF of the pertinent info it should have.
By Mr. Z (10218), North Sea on Apr 14, 10 8:28 PM
I had similar problems with IRS when I sold stock for a loss a couple of years ago. They kept claiming I made a profit! They're not as keen as most people think. It took a lot time to rectify the situation.
By North of Highway (279), Westhampton Beach on Apr 15, 10 11:24 AM
Just looks like another BUM who is in paid by US.
She got plenty of notice.Who is she kidding.
Maybe she is related to MADOFF
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Apr 14, 10 10:38 PM
Who knows whether she is guilty or not. They can make up any amount they want at IRS and it's up to the taxpayer (or alleged non-taxpayer haha) to prove otherwise. I will say upfront that somehow I don't think she's so filthy rich that it's up to $650,000. Got to be a hell of a lot of interest and penalties in there.

Regardless, I just did my taxes this week. And I have to say I'm not going to boo-hoo over some faceless federal agency not getting money from someone. The thing I have aganist ...more
By BobbyH (44), Southampton/NYC on Apr 14, 10 11:15 PM
No disclosure? (innocent or not). Disgusting behavior, IMO cannot be trusted. When and what did Town Boardmembers know about this???
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 14, 10 11:15 PM
I personally could care less about some financial disclosure form. Who cares how much money the spouse of some bureaucrat makes? Campaign contributions are legal so if there's influence peddling, check there.

To your second point Neilli, my guess would be that the Town Board members had NO idea. With everything going on, if there was one whiff of impropriety, they would have held back the re-appointment.
By BobbyH (44), Southampton/NYC on Apr 14, 10 11:19 PM
Sorry, I forgot the "e" in your name. (PS: I always loved Sag Harbor. Are you on the EH side or the SH side? haha)
By BobbyH (44), Southampton/NYC on Apr 14, 10 11:21 PM
SH side. You are probably correct in your observation, I would hope if they knew they would not have appointed her but now, if this is all true, she has gotta go!!!!
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 15, 10 5:26 PM
I don't think the Ethics Board could care less about a SH Town employees disclosure form. It part of the ethics law that employees file a disclosure form. Period.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Apr 14, 10 11:59 PM
Flat tax, Flat tax, Flat Tax. Get rid of the IRS and my accountant (who only exists because I don't have the time to waste on deciphering every new tax code the meatballs at the IRS conjur up each year) Smaller government, less people on the gov't payroll (lower taxes!) and the opportunity to get rid of the April 15th rush. Just pay as you go.
By HarborDad (37), Sag Harbor on Apr 15, 10 11:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
William Gale: "[T]axes are literally at their lowest in decades." CBS News reported on April 15 that "taxes are at their lowest levels in 60 years, according to William Gale, co-director of the Tax Policy Center and director of the Retirement Security Project at the Brookings Institution." CBS News further reported:

"The relation between what is said in the tax debate and what is true about tax policy is often quite tenuous," Gale told Hotsheet. "The rise of the Tea Party at at time ...more
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Apr 16, 10 8:23 AM
AMEN to that! No class warfare either!!
By YEAROUNDER (80), East Hampton on Apr 15, 10 3:34 PM
One funny thing about NY, unlike other states who DO NOT tax necessities like clothing or shoes, our state does.

So, I guess that means it's not a real necessity, and I don't need to wear shoes, or clothing in public.

Right?

This country has become such a s***hole of corruption, greed, and avarice, that it would be a MIRACLE if we could clean it up in less than three generations.
By Mr. Z (10218), North Sea on Apr 15, 10 4:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
So if you rebel against the taxes you have to become a nudist and will be arrested for indecent exposure and would have to pay hefty fines to the state. Can't win.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 15, 10 5:29 PM
No, you become a registered sex offender, then you get roughly 32,760 a year tax free to cover food & shelter! That's if they push the $90 a day stipend for being a homeless sex offender in Suffolk County.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Apr 15, 10 10:50 PM
She can't handle her personal financial situation how is she going to handle the town's financial situation? In the printed Press Ms Wright is stated as saying that filing taxes while working abroad is 'very complex'. Well I know as a fact that senior officers in established and reputable firms with US Citizens working aboard usually have established and reputable accounting firms handling their tax filings. It's not rocket science nor is she the only person who has been there! And shouldn't ...more
By scottso (16), southampton on Apr 16, 10 9:23 AM
Hey, scottso, before calling for her head why not allow her the opportunity to dispute what could be a false charge? This is America, after all, and she is allowed that opportunity. If she is found to be guilty, scream and yell then.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Apr 16, 10 12:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Does the IRS say people owe money in taxes if they don't? I don't think so.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Apr 16, 10 6:27 PM
Are you being sarcastic? If not you are bafflingly naive!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Apr 17, 10 12:35 AM
You're joking, right?
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Apr 17, 10 7:19 PM
Every been wrongfully billed for a cell phone? Get overcharged for LIPA or cable you didn't use? Have someone ring you up wrong at the register? Get a call from some place and have them say "we didn't get your payment" when you know you mail it?

Please, mistakes happen. It's not that someone pencil pusher with a short-sleeve button-down shirt has a vendetta, it's just what it is, an error. However, I don't know if that's the case here. Frankly, I'm more likely to believe a mistake, some ...more
By BobbyH (44), Southampton/NYC on Apr 16, 10 11:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
"The taxes the IRS claims Ms. Wright owes date back to 2002 and 2003, when Ms. Wright was working as a chief operating officer in the financial industry in the United Kingdom."

If you read the article, you would have seen the above quote. She didn't make her money as a Town Employee, and if its a situation that probably lends itself to tax "mistakes"
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Apr 18, 10 1:56 PM
ICE
Of course I'm being sarcastic. Naive I am not.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Apr 17, 10 12:14 PM
LOL, Naive I am not..... you sound like Yoda! You must be wise!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Apr 17, 10 1:27 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By john o (34), southampton on Apr 17, 10 4:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
SOMEBODY IS GOT THERE HEAD UP YOU KNOW WHERE, IS THIS THE PERSON
THAT SAYS WE HAVE NO MONEY OR SOME ONE IS TAKING OUR MONEY
SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE
By john o (34), southampton on Apr 17, 10 4:24 PM
Yes, the IRS could be wrong but the bottom line is she obviously knew about this problem before she was appointed and should have disclosed it. This issue goes way back. If she has a logical dispute with the IRS I have no problem with appointing her but this problem was concealed until the IRS acted. To me, her behavior is devious and I don't want her working for us taxpayers.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 17, 10 8:26 PM
Tamara,
If your correct at the very least you should do is take a temporary leave of absence to handle the situation. Given that SH Town is climbing out of an accounting mess started long ago, your situation takes credability away from your office. Now one cant help but wonder if we have the right person for the job.

By North Sea Citizen (487), North Sea on Apr 18, 10 6:57 AM
Yes, if Ms. Wright, or the Supervisor or Town Board, knew about these potential IRS problems before her appointment, there is a real disclosure/credibility problem here IMO.

Anna, take the lead here!
By PBR (4868), Southampton on Apr 19, 10 8:21 PM
The IRS doesn't just garnish your wages. She has received multiple notices showing her what they believed she owed along with a date to respond by. She claims she paid these taxes. So where 's the documentation. All she has to do is show proof and clear this up. Oviously she has ignored their requests and has'nt attempted to resolve this matter to have gotten to this point. The right thing for her to do is take a leave of absence and deal with the IRS full time and when resolved return to town employement. ...more
By lifesaver (115), speonk on Apr 20, 10 7:51 AM

Pressguy, sorry, the reporter is correct. An IRS lien is a contingent liability, or contingent debt. Since Wright is an accountant, I would say that in preparation of a personal financial statement or financial disclosure, such a major amount (600% of her annual salary) would have to be disclosed as a contingent liability.

An IRS lien is very, very serious that could point to a moral dysfunction, something in an individual you would not want personally handling the disbursements of ...more
By Common Sense (56), Southampton on Apr 23, 10 4:43 PM