AOC’s ‘Tax the Rich’ dress designer Aurora James racked up HUGE debt in unpaid taxes
James's luxury brand racked up three open tax warrants in New York state after failing to collect income taxes from employees' paychecks
Aurora James, the fashion designer behind New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's 'Tax the Rich' gown she wore at the 2021 Met Gala, has been accused of not paying taxes and owes debts in multiple states.
James, 37, who said her dress sent a "powerful message" at the star-studded event, does not appear to abide by that message. According to the New York Post, the high-profile designer's debts are mostly owed by Cultural Brokerage Agency, an LLC she formed in 2021 to serve as the parent company of her fashion brand, Brother Vellies. The newspaper reported how James's luxury brand -- embraced by the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna, and Meghan Markle -- racked up three open tax warrants in New York state after failing to collect income taxes from employees paychecks to the tune of $14,798.
The Department of Taxation and Finance revealed to the newspaper that the outstanding payments were from 2018 and 2019. However, the LLC has reportedly been slapped with a total of 15 warrants since 2015. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also placed six federal liens in the two years before the pandemic on the LLC amounting to $103,220. A lien is the government's legal claim against one's property when one fails to pay off a tax debt. In this case, the liens noted that the company had failed to collect employee payroll taxes.
According to The Post, however, the Canadian designer had no qualms accepting $41,666 from the government in pandemic relief aid. James and Ocasio-Cortez made waves on The Met's red carpet as the 31-year-old socialist firebrand wore a dress emblazoned with the slogan 'Tax the Rich' to the $35,000-a-ticket event.
Despite racking up hundreds of thousands in unpaid taxes, James reportedly bought a $1.6million Hollywood Hills home in September 2020 and currently owes $2,504 in property taxes on the same, per the newspaper. The nearly 7,100-square-foot mansion reportedly has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a master bedroom fireplace, and a hot tub in the backyard.
Meanwhile, Cultural Brokerage Agency is also accused of failing to pay benefits its employees are entitled to. The Worker's Compensation Board hit the company with a $17,000 fine in October 2019 for not carrying worker's-comp insurance from March 2017 to February 2018. The insurance amount is paid out when an employee is injured at work or has to take off as a result.
"Just because they take it out of your paycheck doesn’t mean they’re sending it to the government," David Cenedella, a Baruch College taxation lecturer explained to The Post after reviewing the liens. "It’s certainly not something you want. I would not say your average business out there has this. Something went wrong."
James, however, remains unfazed. A company spokesperson reportedly told The Post she has not made a single payment on the $62,722 she owes to the board. Meanwhile, former employees described Brother Veilles as a sweatshop relying mostly on unpaid interns working full-time jobs. "I experienced a lot of harassment when I worked for her," a fired former worker told The Post on condition of anonymity. "Aurora would ask me to do things that were not in anyone’s job description, like scheduling her gynecological appointments. The work environment was so hostile that I was afraid to ask for my check." Meanwhile, a former intern told the newspaper that James was "quite cold" and never gave "recognition or acknowledgment to her team."
What's more? The New York Post also obtained records indicating James doesn't pay her rent. The newspaper reported how her landlord filed papers in August 2020 to evict Brother Vellies from their 71 Franklin Street office in Brooklyn, New York, and demanded more than $25,000 plus interest if James wanted to stay beyond the end of her lease. The case was reportedly settled but the details were unclear. In another instance in February 2018, James was reportedly sued for more than $5,000 in unpaid rent at her shop's previous New York City address at 209 West 38th Street.