A closer look at Nikki’s idea of fiscal responsibility

Turning from Nikki Haley’s foot-dragging on transparency regarding her taxpayer-issued computer and e-mails, let’s take another look at her problems with paying her taxes on time.

This is particularly relevant because of her oft-stated wish that government be run like a business, and her touting of her proven skills as an accountant.

Let’s take a look at Cindi Scoppe’s column Sunday. Cindi, a meticulous reporter if ever I’ve met one, didn’t think much one way or the other about Nikki’s failure to pay her taxes on time until she looked into it further herself. Here’s an excerpt from what she found, going well beyond what had been previously reported:

The problem wasn’t that the Haleys sought and received extensions. It is in fact quite common for people to get a six-month extension to file their tax returns. But as the IRS makes clear, the extension applies only to the return, not to the tax payment itself. Taxes are always due by April 15 — at the latest. The Haleys have not paid their taxes by April 15 in any of the past five years…
Even more significantly, the extension gives people only until Oct. 15 to file. The Haleys filed their 2005 tax returns on July 30, 2007 — eight months after the extended deadline. They filed their 2006 tax returns on July 23, 2008 — also eight months after the extended deadline. Their 2007 returns were filed Nov. 5, 2008, just a few days after the extended deadline. (Their 2004, 2008 and 2009 returns were filed after April 15, but before Oct. 15, so the IRS doesn’t consider them late.)
Now, in my book, anytime you have to pay the government a penalty, you’ve done something wrong, and the Haleys have paid the IRS $4,452 in penalties in the past five years — $2,853 for filing late, and $1,599 for paying late…
Still, the idea that paying your taxes late, and waiting eight months after the extended deadline to file a return, is doing “nothing wrong” is more of a stretch.
But the biggest stretch is the way Ms. Haley has sought to spin her income tax problem into a virtue. She talks about how she and her husband fell upon tough economic times and cut back on their spending and learned to live within their means, which she says demonstrates what a fiscally responsible governor she would be. It seems to me that her actions demonstrate just the opposite.
The Haleys didn’t pay their taxes late once or twice, when things were bad; they paid their taxes late in every one of the past five years — not just in 2006, when their income dropped by half, but also in 2005 when it was going up, and in 2007, 2008 and 2009, when it was going up substantially, topping out at nearly $200,000 last year….
… the fact is that part of her strategy was to avoid paying her bills on time, by essentially giving herself a loan from those of us who paid our taxes on time. A bailout if you will, albeit temporary, for the candidate who deplores federal bailouts. And since she failed to pay her taxes on time five years in a row, it raises questions about her stewardship of money….
I questioned Ms. Haley’s campaign several times to make absolutely sure that the Haleys had not somehow managed to get an additional extension, and her spokesman never attempted to give any sort of justification for their missing the extended deadlines. I’m not sure what the repeated delinquent tax filings suggest: Poor organizational skills? Inability to delegate authority — or, if delegated, to choose trustworthy people to whom to delegate? A disregard for the laws the rest of us have to obey? What I am sure of is that if it were me, I wouldn’t be bragging about it.

32 thoughts on “A closer look at Nikki’s idea of fiscal responsibility

  1. Doug Ross

    “by essentially giving herself a loan from those of us who paid our taxes on time.”

    Considering the penalties and interest paid, she would have been better off going to Vito the Loan Shark.

    So she paid her penalties (which means MORE money in the coffers) and is up to date?


  2. Lynn

    In a state with voters who regularly hate to raise taxes, dislikes the IRS/Dept of Revenue, pay for anything above a minimally adequate education and accepts our status as just a step or two above Mississippi, someone who routinely delays filing and paying taxes is a hero or in this case a “shero”.

  3. bud

    So Doug, you don’t care if your future governor is, in essence a criminal? That’s what she is. She withheld tax money that she was responsible for paying. That resulted in a large fine. Just because she paid the fine doesn’t make her behavior any less criminal. You don’t have to go to jail to be a criminal. Seems to me this reflects on both her character and her abilities. Since she is an accountant and can’t even do accounting work correctly that is a serious indictment on her competence to perform the important duties as governor.

  4. Mark Stewart

    It IS a big deal. But the lobbying fees earned for “access” to her local area governments – while a State Representative – is the one that leaves me at a loss. Is that common practice? In my book that is absolutely unethical.

  5. Karen McLeod

    “Considering the penalties and interest paid, she would have been better off going to Vito the Loan Shark.”

    This is the type of fiscally responsible person we want for Gov???

  6. David

    It’s all very interesting. I agree with the end of Ms. Scoppe’s column that it’s hard to say what the Haleys’ failures to file and pay taxes suggest.

    I’m not convinced it’s that big of a deal. It is pretty clear that the Haleys never attempted to evade paying taxes. And they have paid what they owed including interest and penalties. Certainly, Haley’s credibility in touting her personal experience and accounting skills as evidence of fiscal responsibility should be diminished. But the email thing seems to be a bigger than the tax penalties.

    What really gets me are the Haley supporters who say “no one cares” about this but have made a big deal in the past about the tax failures of those they didn’t support.

  7. Greg Jones

    Not that big of a deal.
    I think we should be happy she paid them, considering how often we discover politicians who have dodged paying taxes. The penalties and interest are significant, but it is legal, and sometimes it’s easier than borrowing from the “market”.
    Has anybody looked at her property taxes? If there are shenanigans there, that’s more indicative. I’m not sure this would keep me from voting for her.
    At least we have a choice in the governor’s race. How many of you have a house member or senator that’s (effectively) running unopposed.

  8. Doug Ross


    She’s not a “criminal”. She paid a penalty and interest for paying late. There’s a difference. It’s not an admirable thing but it’s trivial. Does it impact in any way her ability to be a figurehead governor? Nope.

    Is everyone who ever missed a payment on their credit card and got charged a fee and had their interest rate bumped up a criminal?
    It’s the same thing.

  9. Brad

    Actually, it IS a big deal, with a candidate who’s all about what a great accountant and businesswoman she is, and promises to bring those skills to bear in (oh, obnoxious cliche of cliches!) “running government like a business.”

    But I wouldn’t go so far as Bud and call her a “criminal.” I tend to reserve that term for actual felons, not for people who are merely hypocritical, irresponsible and/or incompetent.

    There’s a difference.

  10. David

    Haley’s tax problems causing her and her husband to have to pay civil penalties for failing to pay taxes and file returns do not make her a criminal. That’s a thoughtless claim that would only be made out of stupid partisanship.

  11. Jane Frederick


    Nikki is also tossing around this idea “•Develop scalable pre-designed template drawings for schools… There is no reason to reinvent the wheel every time a school is built – using a single, template set of plans will allow us to put the money spent on architectural fees back into the classroom.” This is a bad idea for multiple reasons listed on the AIA SC blog my many people http://aiasc.wordpress.com/

    She also is saying that school districts have spent $212 million on architectural fees over the past 2 years on new schools. I spoke with John Kent at the Office of School Facilities with the SC Dept of Education and he said he didn’t know how the Haley campaign came up with that number but it seemed crazy. If the architectural and engineering fee was 5.5% then that would have been $3,854,545,454 in construction costs or 154 new schools at an average of $25,000,000 each. Do you have resources to find out how she came up with that number?

  12. bud

    If you steal a candy bar from a Seven-Eleven that makes you a criminal. It’s true that you won’t go to prison and will likely suffer only a small fine. So why is it different to willfully fail to pay your taxes on time not a criminal act? The government needs the money to pay it’s employees and provide services. Seems like all the elements are present for this to be a criminal act. We have a victim, the government, and a perpetrator, the Haleys. I’m with Cindi on this one, it is a big deal and should be a campaign issue.

  13. Doug Ross


    Except she didn’t steal. She paid late. And paid the penalty. The government ended up with more money to waste.

  14. David

    So all we need to know to make an informed decision about how good of an accountant and businesswoman Nikki Haley is are these personal tax records? No need to consider any other evidence in support of that conclusion or to the contrary? I am not comfortable in coming to the conclusion that she is or is not a good accountant or businesswoman just based on that.

    And if I did know more about her and was able to make that judgment and decided she was an excellent businesswoman, I still wouldn’t vote for her. I am not comfortable with the policies she supports and I don’t like where her party stands on some issues and that’s why I will not be voting for her.

    That’s why, to me, this is not a big deal.

  15. Kathryn Fenner

    @ Greg– It wasn’t “legal” to pay your taxes after April 15–that why there was a penalty. It wasn’t “legal” to file after the extended deadline of October 15. Again, that’s why the penalty.

    and it happened five years running.

    It’s not “legal” to park at a yellow curb or to speed, and you pay a penalty for doing so.

    How much does anyone care that the potential chief executive officer of our State cannot get it together to even file and pay her own taxes?

  16. Mark Stewart

    While I don’t think that filing and paying late – beyond the given filing extension – is acceptible for anyone, much less a politician, it’s not criminal.

    If that’s the standard, take a look in the mirror and say hello to the criminal looking back at you because we all make errors and break “the law” in various mundane ways. Criminal is a whole different standard.

  17. mr. misteer

    So what? I had a business for 5 years and out of those 5 I got 4 extensions. Why? Because the government offers extensions and I could use the money elsewhere in the business until I was financially able to pay.
    Don’t be so petty. It may happen to you someday.

  18. Ben Cook

    Ha! This is hilarious. Only liberals would say “in my book, anytime you have to pay the government a penalty, you’ve done something wrong”. Looks like somebody doesn’t live in the real world! Nor do they understand tax accounting and running a business.

  19. scout

    I don’t think filing your taxes over a year late and over 6 months beyond the extension you got, multiple times, can be equated with missing one credit card payment, Doug. They are not quite in the same league. That’s kind of like comparing having an overdue library fine on one book one time to habitually never returning the books you check out until you eventually have to pay for the whole book. You’d probably say that would be fine – the library gets their money and everyone is happy, except for all the people that might have wanted to check out those books too and didn’t get to in the intervening time. It’s just irresponsible and inconsiderate. You say this isn’t a big deal because the Haley’s eventually paid their taxes plus penalties. This is true, but they paid them in a whole ‘nother fiscal year. What about the services the government needed to pay for in the year they were due? I think Cindi has it right – she did essentially give “herself a loan from those of us who paid our taxes on time.”

    Many here insinuate that tax foibles are commonplace and shouldn’t be held against Haley. That might be true, if she wasn’t a self proclaimed expert in fiscal matters who has claimed that these skills make her a good candidate for governor. She has essentially asked to be judged on this basis.

  20. Juan Caruso

    Mr. Sheheen is just an open book then?

    Silence and transparency attacks seem to be all he is capable of disseminating these days; nothing new, no ideas. Of course, we know what it means when a lawyer maintains silence.

    Are we ready for Mr. Sheheen’s sheen to lose some of its lustre? Can a $360,000 a year S.C. lawyer attack with seeming total impunity?

    No? Late October would be much better for Haley. What can she be planning? Hmmm!

  21. Kathryn Fenner

    Mr. Misteer–You have to *pay* on April 15. You only get an extension to file. Otherwise, you are paying a penalty. I wish I knew what you were investing in that beat the penalty rate!

  22. Doug Ross


    I started to wonder last night whether Sheheen took a look at his tax returns and realized that being governor may require him to take a big cut in pay for the next year? Maybe that’s why he’s not making much of an effort to try and win… He was down 14 points in the last poll. Can he win simply by saying “I’m not Sanford?” I doubt it. He’ll lose gracefully and then go back to making big bucks off workers comp and payday loan lawsuits. It would be interesting to see how the money gets split in those cases between the injured parties and the lawyers.

  23. bud

    Nor do they understand tax accounting and running a business.

    Typical right-wing condescending nonsense. Let me tell you something Mr. Ben: You and I are the government. It’s not some foreign nation who is occupying our government and diseminating services against our will. We vote for these people to make decisions for us about our schools, property, health and welfare. Government can’t function properly if folks like the Haleys routinely refuse to submit their taxes on time. It’s a dispicable behavior that the folks on the right are far too easy to dismiss as no big deal. Anyone who runs a business appreciates receiving payments on time. Try sending your pest control payment in a year late and see what happens. I bet the termites would appreciate it.

  24. Jesse S.

    I can agree with Brad’s sentiment. This doesn’t bode well for any politician who preaches government as business. Honestly, why haven’t we outgrown that one yet? At least in my lifetime, the point of starting a business was to get it to either make a killing on your IPO or create enough fast revenue to get bought out by a bigger dog before going bankrupt. You accrue investor capital for no other reason that accomplishing one of those two goals, anything else is just a side effect. Running government like business is like strapping jet engines on a dump truck. It’ll make lot of pretty sparks, but in the end you have a burning metal husk.

    The part that worries me is the level of scrutiny we have for candidates. I’m not sure if we really want to make this another bar for entry into public office. Unless you live in a household whose paperwork is based on a handful of W-2s, odds are you have at some point filed for an extension. Certainly not everyone, but a lot. We already live in an environment where a candidate has to create the perception that they can crap out puppies and rainbows (, unless you are going for tough on crime, then you rip the heads off of rabid dogs with your bare hands), we don’t need another fake reason for more fake candidates.

    That said, I have plenty of other reasons to dislike Haley.

  25. bud

    Setting aside the tax and e-mail issues I can agree with Jesse’s sentiment about Ms. Haley. She would make a horrible governor. Perhaps the most telling incident of all is her push to increase taxes on groceries. Why would any working class South Carolinian support a candidate who wants to do that during this tough times? Nikki Haley is just wrong for the people of this state.

    Now, I’m interested in hearing more about Mr. Sheheen. I’m sure he’s trying to get his message out but sadly it’s being drowned out by the various Haley scandals. Maybe that’s her plan.

  26. Doug Ross


    Uh, the Sheheen campaign is the only source of the message about Haley’s emails and taxes. They’ve made the decision to run AGAINST Haley/Sanford versus running FOR something.

    It’s odd that when I want my taxes reduced I’m some sort of greedy s.o.b. But when others don’t want their taxes raised it’s a different story. As long as the money comes from someone else, they’re all for it.

  27. Doug T

    A couple years ago I outsmarted myself and did a Roth conversion on an IRA. Although my account dropped like a rock, I still owed taxes.

    I filed for an extention so I could get all my paperwork gathered, but it didn’t occur to me not to pay the taxes by April 15, as stipulated by law.

    But then again, I’m not an “accountant”.

  28. Kathryn Fenner

    @ Doug–Are you not being a tad disingenuous? Bud has pointed out how harsh eliminating the grocery sales tax exemption would be ON THE POOR–which I gather does not include any of us. He is being more altruistic than you are when you merely wish for your own taxes to be reduced.

    Regressive taxation–not a good thing.
    Progressive taxation–great idea!

  29. scout

    The State sent the records request to both campaigns and the records releases of both candidates were covered by multiple media outlets, so I’m having trouble understanding how….”the Sheheen campaign is the only source of the message about Haley’s emails and taxes.”

    Do you think if you say the same things over and over they will become true. Sheheen is FOR a lot of positive things that make sense to me.


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