Republican Tom Hardin - a candidate for the York County Council District 4 seat and a business owner in Rock Hill for more than two decades - has more than $300,000 in federal tax liens resulting from a failure to file and pay business income taxes.
After striking a deal with the Internal Revenue Service, Hardin is now in the process of paying the IRS more than $200,000 to clear the liens. That amount includes penalties and interest, he said.
Hardin discovered the problem, reported it and resolved the issue, he wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.
He blames an accountant who worked for him from 2000 to 2005 for failing to pay the taxes, he said. Hardin fired the accountant after discovering the errors.
The accountant failed to file quarterly taxes on behalf of Hardin's business over several quarters, Hardin said. He did not provide details on how many quarters or the amount of taxes that were unpaid.
Hardin did not release his tax documents to The Herald, saying he wanted to protect sensitive details about his finances, but he did show some documents indicating that he's currently on a plan to pay off the debt. He'll complete repayment in a few years, he said.
"I'm not trying to pull wool over anybody's eyes," he said. "I hired somebody, they made a mistake, and I corrected that mistake," he said.
Hardin said he hired the accountant when his business began to grow and he and his family could no longer take care of filing the business' taxes on his own.
Hardin signed tax forms and wrote checks made out to the accountant under the impression that the accountant was paying the business taxes, he said. Later he discovered the unpaid taxes.
"We were supposed to be writing checks to the IRS and not to him (the accountant)," he said.
When asked about discrepancies in his finances, he said he trusted the accountant.
"I'm good at pest control - I'm not good at books," Hardin said. "A CPA is supposed to be able to do this," he said.
"But when you own your own business, the buck stops here," he said.
Hardin did not take legal action against the accountant, whose name he wouldn't release, but said that looking back on it, he probably would have had he known then what he knows now.
Hardin, who has owned and operated a business for 23 years, has also been sued twice in the last three years.
In 2006 Hardin purchased a business, 1st Advantage of the Piedmont, only to be sued in 2007 for trademark infringement. Advantage Inspection, a franchise company, sued Hardin and his company for using the resemblance in name to promote his company.
It was a claim he disagreed with and wanted to fight, he said. After he was found guilty in 2008, Hardin paid out more than $34,000 in damages and court fees.
Hardin said he was surprised when he was found guilty and learned that his attorney didn't appear in court on his behalf.
He had a "poor attorney" who "didn't follow through or answer things on time," Hardin said. "I lost by default because my attorney didn't answer the complaint."
Hardin did not sue the attorney for damages.
Hardin's current business, Hardin Services Pest Control, is being sued by a customer who claims a faulty termite inspection conducted by an employee of Hardin's led to repair costs of around $4,700.
The pending lawsuit, filed with the York County Magistrate last year, is "a contract dispute that is under litigation," Hardin said. Hardin's current attorney advised him not to comment further, he said.
Running against Hardin in the race for York County Council District 4 seat is Democrat William "Bump" Roddey.
Roddey said Hardin's tax and legal issues could hurt the County Council's reputation.
"Once a person takes office, it tends to give that body a black eye when it comes to leadership," he said.
When asked whether voters should be concerned about his tax and legal issues, Hardin said no.
"They've taught me a valuable lesson," leading him to better business practices, he said. He's learned to have a sharper eye, a quality he'll take to the County Council.
"I'll be looking and looking hard," he said.
"Humans make errors," he said. "The difference is do you stand up and correct them."