Juanita Bynum pays $32K in taxes, plans to open spa

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Evangelist Juanita Bynum said Friday she has paid the delinquent property tax on her $4.5 million compound in Waycross, where officials had threatened to auction the property.

Bynum said at a press conference that the debt was an oversight.

Nevertheless, Ware County tax officials say they are depositing Bynum’s check for more than $33,000 but they don’t intend to take her property off the market until they are sure the payment is good. An additional $300 is still owed on the property.

“I’m not taking it out of tax sale until the check clears the bank,” said Ware County tax commissioner Steve Barnard. “It takes about a week.”

Barnard said Bynum’s representatives have agreed to pay the $300 shortfall.

Bynum is seeking a tax exemption on the property and hopes to recoup the tax payment in the future, she said.

The 30-acre compound with a lake view in South Georgia was purchased to house the headquarters of Juanita Bynum Ministries and the Mt. Olive Country Spa for women seeking pampering, prayer and spiritual guidance.

Bynum said her lawyers have applied for a tax exemption on the property, but the deadline for the property taxes came before the paperwork was complete. The pastor said she had put $5,000 down on the tax bill earlier but was advised by her attorneys not to pay the full bill until the exemption came through.

Earlier this week, the property was scheduled for auction for non-payment of taxes. Barnard filed a lien against the compound on June 7 because $32,007.56 in 2006 property taxes had not been paid. According to the lien, a $3,200 penalty and $2,240 in interest also is owed.

Bynum provided a copy of her receipt to reporters that showed $38,904.15 had been paid on the account.

“The word of God tells me my integrity shall preserve my inheritance,” Bynum said. “I am not going to lose anything.”

Still Barnard said he doubts Bynum qualifies for an exemption. He said he has discussed Bynum’s appeal for a tax exemption with the Georgia Department of Revenue and he does not believe that her compound should get one because it does not have a congregation and it is not open to the general public.

“She has a gate that stays locked,” Barnard said. “You can only get in that place with permission. If it’s a religious [place] it has to be open to the public.”

Barnard also said for-profit businesses can not receive the religious exemptions. “It’s going to be up to the Board of Accessors and the Department of Revenue to decide if she gets an exemption.”

Meanwhile, Bynum said, plans are moving forward for the spa at the compound, which currently includes four buildings. Another building will be added for the spa and prayer room.

Bynum said she also will release a makeup line called Ethne’ and a group of bath products under the Mt. Olive brand name. Both have been under development for about a year, she said.

The tax issue was the latest legal drama involving the nationally known Pentecostal evangelist, who has been in the news in recent weeks after alleging she was beaten by her estranged husband, Thomas Weeks III, also a pastor.

Bynum asked her fans to keep praying for her. She said the tax issue is not a “big deal” and that she had the money to pay for it all along.

“How many people do you know who can say they own (a) $4.5 million in investment property,” Bynum said. “The mortgage is $26,000. Stuff happens.”

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Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA
Oct. 19, 2007
D. Aileen Dodd
www.ajc.com

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This post was last updated: Oct. 20, 2007