Haley's taxes filed late

GOP nominee for governor has consistently missed the deadline for years

joconnor@thestate.comAugust 4, 2010 

Republican candidate for South Carolina governor, Rep. Nikki Haley, answers questions during a GOP debate at the Newberry Opera House.

C. ALUKA BERRY — caberry@thestate.com Buy Photo

  • What Nikki Haley’s tax records reveal

    Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley turned over three additional years of tax records Wednesday

    2004: Haley and her husband earned $65,704 combined. After $34,554 in deductions, the couple paid $2,410 in federal tax and $83 in state taxes. The couple gave $7,951 to charity.

    2005: The Haleys earned a combined $85,828. After $31,558 in deductions, the couple paid $6,837 in federal and $1,044 in state taxes. The Haleys gave $4,699 to charity.

    2006: The Haleys earned a combined $40,269. After $32,383 in deductions, the couple paid $2,159 in federal and no state taxes. The couple gave $1,240 to charity.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley has consistently missed the April 15 tax-filing deadline, according to additional records released Wednesday, filing her income taxes more than a year late in 2005 and 2006.

Haley, a Lexington County state representative, has paid more than $4,000 in late-payment penalties since 2004. She has emphasized her accounting experience on the campaign trail.

In two years the Haley family paid only $83 in state income taxes.

“Like many others, the Haleys availed themselves of the opportunity to file extensions when necessary,” spokesman Rob Godfrey said in a statement. “And when they got their taxes prepared, they filed them and paid any interest they were required to.”

The documents are part of a larger political tug of war between Haley and Democratic rival Vincent Sheheen about open government. Haley has made transparency and accountability a central part of her campaign. Sheheen, a Kershaw County state senator, has challenged that claim by opening his records up for scrutiny, offering more records than Haley.

Wednesday, for example, Sheheen’s campaign turned over thousands of legislative e-mails, letters and other documents included in an open records request by The State.

Haley’s disclosure of additional tax returns show her family’s income has tripled since she first was elected to the state House in 2004. Haley and her husband, Michael, earned a combined $65,704 in 2004, according to tax returns that included income from Nikki Haley’s work for her parents’ clothing company and Michael Haley’s bartering firm.

Sheheen’s income has increased to $346,121 from $73,461 since he was elected to the Legislature in 2000.

By 2009, the Haley family income had risen to $196,282. That included Nikki Haley’s $110,000 fundraising job at the Lexington Medical Center Foundation, Michael Haley’s South Carolina National Guard job and Nikki Haley’s consulting work for engineering firm Wilbur Smith Associates. Haley drew criticism for not previously disclosing those consulting fees, totaling $42,500.

In 2005, the family earned a combined $85,828. In 2006, the family income declined to $40,269, requiring the Haleys to pay no state income tax after factoring in more than $32,000 in deductions. In 2004, the family paid $83 in state income taxes.

Nikki Haley earned $46,000 a year working for her parents’ company in 2004, and about $22,000 in 2005 and 2006, according to the tax records.

Sheheen saw a similar increase in earnings since his election, with his income rising to $346,121 in 2009 from $73,461 in 2000. Sheheen had turned over 10 years of tax records to the media on July 20, challenging Haley to follow suit.

In releasing his legislative e-mails, Sheheen repeated that challenge to Haley. “In order to restore trust, honesty and integrity to our state, we as candidates must be transparent in our actions,” Sheheen said in a statement. “Candidates must practice what they preach.”

The State sent identical open-records requests to Sheheen and Haley asking to review their legislative e-mails, state-issued computer hard drives and documents saved to a state computer network.

Haley had not yet responded to The State’s open-records request, due Aug. 2. Haley declined to waive a legislative exemption for a similar request to review e-mails during the primary — prompted by a blogger’s accusation of a 2007 extramarital affair — calling the request a campaign distraction.

“We are in the process of going through each and every e-mail to ensure the privacy of constituents who wrote to Nikki in confidence isn’t violated by this process,” said Godfrey, Haley’s spokesman.

S.C. House Clerk Charles Reid said legislative e-mails are routinely deleted after 180 days, and that any e-mails from 2007 probably no longer exist.

Sheheen’s e-mails document hundreds of requests from voters, both local and statewide — often form letters — on issues ranging from education budget cuts, raising the cigarette tax, restoring funding for AIDS drugs, tort reform legislation and requiring more on-the-record legislative votes. Many of the e-mails include requests for assistance. Names, addresses and other details, such as medical conditions, were redacted.

The e-mails date back to Jan. 1.

“I do not want to see any more teachers lose their jobs or experience more furlough days/pay cuts,” one Lee County teacher wrote to Sheheen.

“Thank you for your perseverance and commitment in passing the cigarette tax,” a Cheraw woman wrote.

Many of the e-mails offered Sheheen encouragement prior to the June 8 Democratic primary, or congratulated him on the win.

“I am proud of you and the race you are running,” a self-identified Republican Lexington County woman wrote. “I will vote for Nikki Haley in the primary, but I told your dad I would support you in the general election.”

Sheheen often replied, thanking the writer for the encouraging words. Occasionally, Sheheen forwarded a request to his campaign team or to his private law firm account, such as the local nonprofit group seeking legal advice about a Department of Revenue audit.

The documents also include drafts of letters and speeches, including a 2002 speech to the Golden K Club on partisanship in the Legislature.

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