IRS files tax lien against Afro publisher

August 30, 1991|By Timothy J. Mullaney

The Internal Revenue Service has hit the publisher of the Afro-American newspaper with a tax lien of more than $245,000, contending that John J. Oliver Jr. is liable for back withholding taxes and Social Security tax deducted from workers' paychecks but not passed on to the government.

The IRS filed the lien in Baltimore Circuit Court Aug. 16, following up on three liens it had filed against the paper's parent company in 1988 and 1989. Domenic J. LaPonzina, an IRS spokesman, said he couldn't discuss specific taxpayers, but added that the law allows the IRS to try to collect delinquent taxes from personalassets of corporate officials responsible for paying a company's tax bills.

Mr. Oliver didn't return any of several calls seeking comment.

The lien entitles the IRS to seize almost any property Mr. Oliver owns to satisfy the paper's back taxes, but it is not clear that the agency plans any moves that would affect the paper's operation. Mr. LaPonzina said similar liens have been in effect against the company since 1989, but the paper has continued to publish.

A reporter at the Afro, who asked not to be named, said that its staff hasn't been warned that the paper is having any serious financial problems currently. The company owns similar papers in Richmond, Va., and Washington, as well as a nationally distributed magazine that is also aimed at a mostly black audience.

The Afro-American did run into serious financial problems in 1989, but it worked out agreements with its creditors. Mr. Oliver was quoted in an Aug. 12 article in The Evening Sun as saying that the company had made a small profit last year.

Mr. LaPonzina said the most recent lien against the company was filed last November, covering $27,630.93 of income tax and SocialSecurity tax withholding from the third quarter of 1989. The other liens cover tax payments that were due from 1986 to 1989, he said.

There are no allegations in the public record of any more recent failures to pay withholding taxes.

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