Tax problems can be a deal-breaker for nominees to public office. In 1993, successive nominees for the position of attorney general in President Bill Clinton's first administration had to withdraw due to problems with the so-called "nanny tax." That was 20 years ago, but the phenomenon of being dogged by tax debt while pursuing public office continues to occur regularly.
Recently, scrutiny has fallen on a former adviser to Mr. Clinton who is the long-term boyfriend of Anna Wintour, the high-profile editor of Vogue magazine who is seeking to become the next ambassador to Great Britain. Ms. Wintour's friend, J. Shelby Bryan, reportedly has owed tax debt to the IRS since 2006. He also has had difficulty with Texas authorities over property taxes in that state.
To be sure, in this case, unlike the nanny tax cases, the tax problems are those of a partner, not the nominee. But they are still political problems, on the principle articulated two millennia ago by Julius Caesar himself. Caesar famously said that "Caesar's wife must be above approach." Or, in other words, in the political realm, it is important to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Keep in mind, however, even a tax issue that creates a political problem can be challenged in tax litigation. There may well be a legitimate explanation for what appears to be an unresolved situation. In Mr. Bryan's case, for example, the tax problems may relate to changeover in the role of the accountant who was supposed to pay the Texas property taxes for him.
Source: "Anna Wintour's boyfriend 'owes US government $1/2 million in taxes," The Telegraph, Jon Swanie, 1-28-13
Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post in Miami and throughout South Florida. To learn more about our practice, please visit our page on IRS tax collection.