The race for state auditor has turned ugly.
With the election a little over a week away, incumbent state Auditor Steve Burrage has been blanketing television airwaves with political ads accusing Republican challenger Gary Jones of "repeated failure to pay taxes."
"State tax warrants and penalties for thousands in unpaid state taxes," the narrator declares in the ads.
Jones bristles at the claims.
"It's a misrepresentation of the facts," he said. "The allegation that I haven't paid my taxes is totally false. Every tax has been paid."
The catch is Jones' business, OTT Business Systems Inc., paid some taxes late about two decades ago.
A Burrage campaign official said the basis for the ad's claims are two federal business tax liens totaling more than $17,000 for tax years 1988 and 1992 and three state tax warrants and liens totaling more than $15,000 for business taxes that were not paid on time in 1990 and 1991.
Jones acknowledges some taxes were paid late, but said he resolved the matter years ago by paying all taxes that were due.
"Basically, we had some people who made some clerical errors and we got behind," Jones said.
He said the biggest federal tax lien stemmed from an employee paying the IRS using the wrong business identification number after his company changed from a partnership to a corporation.
Clearing up debt
Jones said it took two years, 18 telephone calls and intervention by a U.S. senator to get the matter straightened out and the money credited to the right account. In the meantime, a federal tax lien was filed, he said.
"There were a couple other errors that we made," he said. "Granted we should pay our taxes on time, but we were late ... and we corrected those. That was back in the early '90s."
"I've figured up that since my wife and I have been married, we've paid personally and in business probably about $1 million in taxes," said Jones, a former state Republican Party chairman.
Ongoing coverage: Elections
Candidate bio: Steve Burrage
Candidate bio: Gary Jones