Zurik: New Orleans Mayor, Husband owe $95,000 in unpaid taxes

LaToya, Jason Cantrell have had liens placed on their property over eight of the last nine years
Speaking on three New Orleans bond and tax propositions.
Speaking on three New Orleans bond and tax propositions.(WVUE)
Updated: Jan. 31, 2020 at 6:33 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As taxes begin to be filed for another year, the Internal Revenue Service is still trying to collect a hefty sum from New Orleans’ top-elected official.

Liens filed by the IRS show Mayor LaToya Cantrell and her husband, Jason, owe more than $95,000 in taxes. Federal tax liens have been placed on the couple for eight of the last nine tax years (2010-2015, 2017-2018).

The latest lien was filed on January 28 on the home owned by LaToya and Jason Cantrell. The IRS claims the married couple owes income taxes from 2018 totaling $19,406.99.

Certified Public Accountant Patrick Lynch said the next step for the federal government in collecting the total from the couple would come in either foreclosure on their home or bank accounts.

“That’s pretty much their discretion [how to collect the sum.]” Lynch said.

One month before the January 2020 filing, the IRS filed a separate lien on the Cantrell property for $31,940.33 in unpaid taxes from the 2017 tax year.

In 2018, the IRS filed another lien for unpaid taxes from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 tax years, totaling $43,664.48.

“The taxpayer is made aware well before a lien is filed,” Lynch said.

When Cantrell was running for mayor in 2017, The Lens first reported on another tax lien, filed in 2014 for $27,564.99 in unpaid taxes. The total accounts for unpaid income taxes from 2010, 2011 and 2012 tax years. Records show that lien has since been released.

“It’s a pattern,” Lynch said. “A pattern of not paying your taxes.”

Dillard University Public Policy Professor Dr. Robert Collins said there may be a concern over her financial management with the city.

“The concern is, if you’re not responsible in your personal taxes, you’re responsible for the city budget and taxes," Collins said.

He said while voters are more tolerant of personal behavior, unpaid taxes are something that still resonates.

“The concern with voters is we have to pay taxes -- why isn’t the mayor paying taxes -- that’s the question in the minds of voters," Collins said.

When added together, the Cantrell’s owe $95,011 in unpaid taxes.

Lynch said if the mayor and her husband are both named it indicates they filed a joint/married tax return, meaning both are responsible for the unpaid taxes.

Late Thursday evening, Mayor Cantrell issued a statement on the liens:

“Unfortunately, our family has been struggling with this debt for years. We are working with tax experts to resolve and pay this off as soon as possible. It’s very painful for this news to be made public, but I know many of our city’s residents face similar challenges, while they work hard every day, of keeping their homes. I still live on Louisiana Avenue Parkway like I always have, and will continue to work side by side, every day with our residents, for a better future for all New Orleanians. We are all in this together.”

The mayor and city council have already been at odds over the investigation of the Hard Rock Collapse which killed three people and injured many more. Collins said how Cantrell has handled her personal finances could concern councilmembers and prompt them to dig deeper into the city’s own finances.

“I do think this will force the city council to dig deeper into issues involving the executive branch especially issues in appropriating money and taxes,” he said.

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