On the same day that tax problems forced Marie St. Fleur from the lieutenant governor's race, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval L. Patrick disclosed yesterday that he faced an IRS tax lien in 1996 for missing ''one or two" payments on $8,778 he owed the federal government.
In a statement released by his campaign, Patrick said that in 1994 he and his wife had ''an unexpected tax liability" for the 1993 tax year. Instead of owing the $4,000 they had anticipated, the couple's tax bill was about $17,000, an aide to Patrick said yesterday. Patrick said he reached an installment agreement with the IRS in 1994 and made the scheduled payments through that year and 1995. In 1996, for reasons he was at a loss to explain yesterday, he missed one or two of the payments, resulting in the lien.
Patrick said in an interview last night that in 1993, he was moving to Washington to take a job in the US Justice Department. He said the initial miscalculation of his family's tax liability resulted from the complexity of ''trying to manage a life in Milton and a life in Washington at the same time."
''We filed on time; we always do," he said. ''We paid what we could, and we worked on an installment agreement with the IRS for the balance. We missed a payment, and the lien was the result."
A tax record available on the LexisNexis database says that the lien against Patrick and his wife was filed in August 1996 and satisfied in March 1997.
Patrick insisted yesterday that ''we would have made this public at some point," but that the controversy over St. Fleur's tax problems persuaded him to act immediately.
''Certainly, reading about (St. Fleur's situation) in the press today impressed on me how much interest there is in the media in stuff like this," he said. ''I don't think there is a lot of interest among average citizens. But we'll soon see, won't we?"
Patrick suggested that many voters will understand his mistake.
''Just like us, people find themselves in situations like this at points in their lives," he said in the statement released by his office. ''A rare few are immune from tight financial times at one time or another. We met our responsibilities, paid our debt, and moved on."
Early last month, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, Patrick's Democratic rival who chose St. Fleur as his running mate, released his tax records and called on other candidates for governor to do the same. But Patrick has refused to do so. He said yesterday that he files jointly with his wife and that ''there is no reason to bring her into this."
Scott Greenberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.