UPDATE: Jackson County legislator's tax history under investigation

County attorney starts probe on Dennis Waits

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new investigation was opened against a Jackson County legislator.

It comes after the 41 Action News Investigators exclusive report Wednesday night on Dennis Waits' tax problems.

Jackson County Attorney Jean Peters Baker's spokesman Mike Mansur says the investigation opened Thursday but offered no further comment.

It comes after the 41 Action News Investigators reported Waits had delinquent Missouri state withholding taxes for his law firm spelled out in a 2016 tax lien.

The main issue is that lien shows Waits owes delinquent taxes for 2012.

In 2014, he signed a form called a 5120 stating under penalty of perjury he did not owe any delinquent state taxes.

To be eligible to run for re-election, Waits could not owe delinquent taxes and had to sign that form.

As of Wednesday, the complete debt on that 2016 tax lien, which also includes delinquent taxes from 2015, had not been fully paid.

Baker had previously opened an investigation of Jackson County Executive Frank White based on a similar delinquent tax and campaign disclosure issue.

Waits has publicly supported Baker's investigation of White.

Tax records and the 5120 campaign disclosure form are both administered by the Missouri Department of Revenue (DOR).

An attorney for that department says DOR will only start investigations of false reports on campaign disclosures based on complaints.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Dennis Waits has been the 3rd district representative for the Jackson County Legislature for more than three decades.

It includes 30 plus years of taking part in spending decisions with Jackson County tax dollars.

But records exclusively obtained by 41 Action News show Waits has a history of not paying his taxes on time.

An attorney by trade, Waits was last re-elected in 2014.

To be eligible for that re-election, Waits had to fill out a form called a 5120.

It says in part, "I hereby declare under penalties of perjury... that I am not currently aware of any delinquency in the filing of any state income taxes."

Waits signed the document on Feb. 25, 2014.

But an April 2016 tax lien shows Waits has failed to pay withholding taxes for employees at his law firm in both 2012 and 2015 and owed more than $3,300 at that time.

A lien is a legal claim used to make sure a debt is paid.

Nearly two years after that lien was filed in 2016, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Revenue says that debt has not been fully paid. She said additional interest on the debt has been added since 2016.

It's not public record how much Waits owes from that lien now.

The spokeswoman said multiple computer-generated notices are sent to taxpayers about owing money before a lien is placed.

The lien shows Waits owed 2012 fourth quarter taxes.

But he signed the 5120 form in 2014 stating he didn't owe any state taxes when he did.

Missouri law states you can't run for office if you owe unpaid taxes.

The 41 Action News Investigators went to Waits' law office in Independence to ask him why he hadn't paid his state taxes on time.

"I think the state taxes are paid, I'd have to check and see. But as far as I know, they are," he said.

But they're not paid.

According to the lien document, Waits failed to pay nearly $2,300 in 2012 state taxes resulting in more than $780 in interest penalties and fees in April 2016.

The lien also shows Waits failed to pay $220 in state taxes in the first quarter of 2015 resulting in more than $60 in penalties.

Most recently, this past July, another tax lien was placed on Waits for failing to pay $330 on time with more than $80 in penalties.

The 41 Action News Investigators showed Waits some of the lien documents and again asked if he paid his taxes.

"Far as I know," he said.

Waits did pay a few different times after liens were placed against him by both the state of Missouri and the federal government.

A 2013 document shows a state tax lien was dropped against Waits after he paid nearly $1,600 in taxes and fees covering a tax period from 2009-2012.

Also in 2013, the U.S. government released Waits from a tax lien covering a year and a half period from mid-2011 through all of 2012.

That federal tax lien showed Waits owed close to $27,000.

Court records show Waits failure to pay taxes on time dates back to 1991.

A 1994 document shows he paid more than $1,600 for overdue Missouri state taxes from 1991.

After the 41 Action News Investigators first spoke to Waits on Tuesday, he said he'd check to see if he had paid his taxes and then let the Investigators know.

The 41 Action News Investigators reached out to Waits after that meeting with multiple emails, phone calls and a second office visit on Wednesday.

So far, Waits has not responded.

Waits recently supported an effort to have Jackson County Executive Frank White investigated for similar tax issues.

The Missouri Department of Revenue keeps track of delinquent taxes.

The department also receives the 5120 candidate filings they sign under penalty of perjury stating the candidate doesn't owe any delinquent taxes.

It's unclear if the department does any cross-checking of the candidates' disclosure forms with tax records.

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