Melissa Bondi, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the March 27 Arlington County Board special election, failed to pay about $19,000 in federal income taxes for two years, a debt that she said she was unaware of and is now trying to resolve. She was also late paying vehicle registration taxes.

A federal tax lien filed in county courts said that Bondi owes $19,252.23 from her income-tax statements of 2005 and 2006, apparently due to income from self-employment or a small business. The assessment was made in March 2009, and the lien was filed March 29.

Bondi, who now works as project coordinator for the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington and is a member of the Arlington Economic Development Commission, said she was “shocked and thoroughly concerned” to discover the lien this week, after it was reported by the Arlington Yupette blog. “When I learned about this, I did what any responsible citizen would do: I called the IRS and started to work with the IRS,” Bondi said Thursday night after a campaign appearance. “I was shocked by it, and I believe it was an error by the IRS. It is my complete goal to be fully compliant with the IRS.”

Bondi said she lives at the address where the tax lien notification was sent but would not say whether she received notices or warning letters. She said she asked the IRS to provide her with all previous correspondence they sent.

In an earlier statement on her campaign Web site, she denounced attacks on her by local bloggers, calling them “sudden, nasty, highly personal, and intended to derail” her campaign.

Most IRS disputes never become public because federal law prohibits the agency from disclosing taxpayer records. However, when the IRS is trying to recover a debt, it alerts other creditors by filing a tax lien, which is a public record. An IRS spokesman declined to comment on Bondi’s situation and directed inquiries to an IRS publication that deals with collections and tax liens.

“People can fall into financial difficulties all the time,” said Audrey Clement, a Green Party-endorsed candidate who is running as an independent in the election. “I think the disqualifying factor is if the person ignores the lien. That signifies a lack of regard for federal law. . . . Not a good position to be in if you’re running for local office, especially in our nation’s capital” region.

Bondi was also overdue on paying vehicle taxes in 2004 and 2005, according to the County Treasurer’s Department, and paid the 2005 taxes only “following a threat of seizure by the Treasurer’s office,” according to a letter from treasurer Frank O’Leary. That report came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Arlington resident David North, an 83-year-old retired journalist and state government employee who said he researches candidates for a hobby.

Bondi sold her car in 2006 and does not currently own one. She also does not own a home.

Kim Klingler, another Democrat in the race, was also delinquent on her vehicle taxes in 2006 and 2007. “I did make a mistake, and I moved quickly to resolve to make prompt payment, including penalties,” she said. “I have since signed up for e-mail alerts and have placed a reminder on my calendar to ensure timely payment.”

Bondi is one of five Democrats vying for the party’s nomination for the March 27 special election. The Democrats will choose their nominee in two caucuses, on Jan. 19 and 21. Bondi is seeking to replace Barbara Favola, who was elected to the Virginia Senate in November. Bondi has been endorsed by two sitting board members, Chris Zimmerman and J. Walter Tejada.

The Republican Party has not yet announced if it will field a candidate in the election.