Mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell and her husband failed to pay about $28,000 in federal income taxes in recent years.
Cantrell, a City Council member, is considered one of the main contenders in the New Orleans mayoral race.
The Internal Revenue Service placed a lien on their home in Broadmoor for the debt in 2014, according to a filing with the clerk of Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
In an interview, the councilwoman acknowledged having underpaid the IRS from 2010 to 2012, but she said the lien is actually the result of a bank error and that she was close to resolving the situation.
Desiree Charbonnet hasn't done much public campaigning in the weeks since she announced her …
Neither the lien nor the tax debt would disqualify Cantrell from running for mayor. But the revelation of an outstanding bill from the government could prove awkward for a figure who is gunning for the top job at City Hall, a role that involves managing a budget of more than half a billion dollars a year and sometimes asking taxpayers to cough up more money for public needs.
Cantrell said that she and her husband, attorney Jason Cantrell, initially disputed that they had underpaid the IRS but eventually settled on a plan for paying the government back.
In all, they owed $27,564.99 in taxes, interest and penalties for 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Cantrell said the couple refinanced their home in 2013 in order to pay off the debt, with a portion of their regular mortgage payments intended to go toward their tax bill. Parish records confirm the couple obtained a mortgage from First NBC Bank that year for $210,000.
But the IRS apparently never received those payments from First NBC, and the agency put a lien on the property the following year, Cantrell said, blaming the bank for the error.
Cantrell said she expects the IRS to issue a letter soon indicating that the problem has been resolved, but she would not say whether she and her husband have paid off the entire tax bill at this point.
Whitney Bank took over the mortgage after First NBC went bust this spring, and Cantrell said she has asked that bank to provide a letter confirming her description of what happened.
“The money is there, and Whitney is processing it," she said. "I feel very confident” that the matter will be resolved soon.
Cantrell appears to be in good standing on her state taxes. In response to a public records request, the Louisiana Department of Revenue said it has Cantrell’s tax returns for 2012 through 2015.
It doesn’t have a return for 2016, but Cantrell indicated on an ethics disclosure form that she has filed for extensions on her state and federal returns for that year. An official with the Department of Revenue said state privacy law prevents the agency from confirming that.
Another candidate for mayor, former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris, has not filed a Louisiana income tax return for 2016, according to the Department of Revenue. Devin Johnson, a campaign spokesman for Bagneris, said he asked for an extension.
But Bagneris’ most recent ethics disclosure, filed this month, does not show that. Bagneris checked a box saying he had filed his tax returns for the “previous year.” Because the form covers 2016, Bagneris understood that to refer to 2015, Johnson said.
During Bagneris’ 2014 run for New Orleans mayor, The Lens reported he had run up more than $100,000 in back taxes from 1984 to 1990, which he later paid off. He told The Lens the debt arose from financial difficulties related to his daughter’s medical bills.
A search did not turn up any state or federal tax problems for former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, who appears at this early stage to be Cantrell’s chief rival in the mayoral race.