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Ex-Gov. Kirk settles IRS back-taxes suit

  Tax  -   POSTED: 2007/10/24 12:41

Months after protesting that he was a political whipping boy for the IRS, former Gov. Claude Kirk has agreed to settle his dispute with the federal government over $320,000 in unpaid taxes. In papers filed in U.S. District Court this week, the 81-year-old agreed to settle the lawsuit by allowing the federal government to put a $320,374 lien on his home in Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach. The roughly 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home with a pool has a market value of $264,000, according to the Palm Beach County property appraiser.

Reached Tuesday, Kirk declined to say why he and his wife, Erika, 73, decided to settle the suit rather than fight the IRS in a trial scheduled for next month.

"Let's let it lie for the moment," he said. "It's a long story, but an interesting one."

In a lawsuit filed in March, the IRS claimed Kirk put the home in his wife's name to avoid paying taxes dating to 1995.

In depositions, the couple insisted that she owns the house. However, government attorneys pointed out that on tax returns in 2001, 2002 and 2003 he deducted about $8,000 each year in mortgage interest.

While acknowledging he signed the returns, he insisted: "It's my wife's home, and that is it."

During an August deposition, he said he has been harassed by the IRS since he left the governor's office in 1971, having sealed his place in history as the state's first Republican governor since Reconstruction and the most flamboyant chief executive of either party - ever.

"I left the governor's office broke, b-r-o-k-e, because if you don't steal, it's not a very good job," he told government attorneys. "And I've been harassed by the IRS ever since. They had a system, started with the Carter administration, saying, 'Oh-oh, anybody who has been a politician has got money.' They've been rattling the cage forever."

He declined to say how much he made annually or exactly what he does for a living. He bristled when IRS attorneys attempted to question him about his 2001 tax return that reported $183,540 in earnings.

"I try to have people pay me for advice," he said. "Some of them take that advice and some don't pay me. It's not an easy business. I have no assets. I came out of being governor broke, and it hasn't changed."

The IRS declined comment on the settlement that must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks.


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