MA Legislature tech chief Edward Bell faces federal tax bill

The Legislature’s technology chief, who earned more than $1 million from the state during the last three years, is facing allegations that he owes tens of thousands of dollars in federal taxes.

The Internal Revenue Service filed liens last year against Edward S. Bell, the Legislature’s chief information officer and his wife, totaling $145,962 for the 2010 and 2011 tax years, according to filings with the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds.

It is not clear whether Bell owes the taxes based on money he earned from the state or from other sources of income.

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The state paid Bell, an independent contractor, more than $1.1 million in fees since 2010, state records show, which works out to more than $300,000 a year. But Bell also has his own information technology consulting business, 3S Con Inc., which probably generates additional income.

Bell has served as interim chief information officer for the Massachusetts Senate and House since 2009, overseeing the website and other technology projects for the Legislature, according to his LinkedIn profile. He previously worked for several financial services firms: ING, Commonwealth Financial Network, and Putnam Investments.

In a brief telephone interview Monday, Bell said he has since worked out a payment plan with the IRS to pay his 2010 and 2011 taxes. He has fully paid his 2012 taxes and is current on his 2013 taxes, he said. But Bell added he did not feel comfortable talking about what specifically prompted the federal tax liens. “I can’t go into any personal matters,” he said.

He instead referred questions about his state pay to the offices of Senate president Therese Murray and Robert DeLeo, the House speaker.

Murray and DeLeo released a joint statement Monday stressing the importance of legislative technology projects, which they say “enhance the public’s access to the legislative process.” That includes overhauling the website and redesigning the hearing rooms for live webcasting.

The statement also said that all its technology contracts are awarded through a competitive bidding process. But the statement did not specifically mention Bell, his pay, or his tax issues, and representatives did not immediately respond to questions about the topics.

The first lien for $75,369.05 was filed in March 2012 based on the 2010 tax year. The second lien, for $70,593.75, was filed last August for the 2011 tax year.

The IRS says it normally only files a lien if a taxpayer does not pay the agency or set up a payment plan after receiving at least two bills.

Bell, however, said he never ignored any tax bills from the IRS. “Anytime the IRS reached out to me, I reached back to them,” he said.

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