President Trump has made “extreme vetting” a priority for his immigration policies, but when it comes to scrutinizing his own federal nominees, he has been less aggressive.
The latest example is Stephen Moore, the conservative economist and former campaign adviser, whom Mr. Trump picked last week to serve on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. Court documents filed in 2018 that surfaced this week show that Mr. Moore owes $75,000 in unpaid federal taxes, interest and penalties.
Legal, ethical and tax issues have threatened to derail nominations in previous administrations but, under Mr. Trump, they have rarely felled candidates. Despite calls from Democrats on Thursday to drop Mr. Moore from contention, the White House signaled that it would stay the course with Mr. Moore, who has yet to be formally nominated.
Larry Kudlow, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, described Mr. Moore’s tax lien as an “overpayment and refund issue” that would not pose a problem if he was nominated.
“Easily solved,” Mr. Kudlow said in a text message.
A lien for $75,328.80 from the 2014 tax year was entered against Mr. Moore at the request of the federal government in January 2018 in Montgomery County, Md., where he resides, the records show.
In a phone interview on Thursday, Mr. Moore said the lien was the result of a “huge miscalculation” on the part of the Internal Revenue Service, and that he had been frustrated by the agency in a yearslong effort to resolve the issue.
Mr. Moore said that for a single tax year, he had claimed both the value of alimony to his former wife, which is deductible on federal tax forms, and also the value of his child support payments to her, which are not eligible for a tax break. He said the child support amounted to about $18,000, which, given his tax bracket, worked out to about $6,000 in taxes that he owed but did not pay.
“My accountant made a mistake,” he said.
Following an audit, Mr. Moore said, the I.R.S. deemed his return for that year “fraudulent” and disallowed the full value of his deductions. With penalties and fees, that amounted to a tax bill of more than $75,000.
Mr. Moore said that he and his current wife have tried for years to resolve the issue with the I.R.S., including dispute resolution, but have not succeeded. He said he overpaid his taxes by $50,000 in a subsequent year in an attempt at resolution, and has not heard from the agency in nearly two years.
“We believe that the I.R.S. made a huge miscalculation on what I owe,” he said. “We’ve been waiting two years. We can’t get resolution. That’s what’s so frustrating.”
An I.R.S. spokesman declined to comment, saying that “federal privacy and disclosure laws prohibit the I.R.S. from commenting on any individual or situation.”
Democrats seized on Mr. Moore’s tax troubles, saying it is the latest example of an administration that has little regard for longstanding ethics rules.
“Aside from being patently unqualified for the job, we’ve now learned that Stephen Moore is a tax cheat who owes the government $75,000,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “Stephen Moore should do Senate Republicans a favor and withdraw, rather than subject them to awkward questions about why an unqualified tax cheat should be rewarded with one of the most powerful economic policy jobs in the country.”
American Bridge, the Democratic super PAC, also denounced the Trump administration for selecting Mr. Moore to a prominent job at the Fed.
“This is embarrassing even for an administration already flooded with cronies and incompetent staff, and the White House should withdraw Moore’s nomination immediately,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for American Bridge.
During the early days of Mr. Trump’s term, several of his nominees faced questions over their finances during their confirmation hearings.
Mick Mulvaney, who is now Mr. Trump’s acting chief of staff, acknowledged when he was being confirmed for his previous job as budget director, that he had paid back taxes of more than $15,000 for a household employee whose payroll taxes he had not paid.
Former Representative Tom Price of Georgia, who in 2017 resigned as health secretary for using expensive chartered flights, had to defend stock trades that might have been impacted by his time in Congress during his confirmation hearing. And Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, was scolded by senators before being confirmed for failing to disclose $95 million of real estate assets on this ethics questionnaire.
In 2009, Timothy Geithner, who was former President Barack Obama’s first Treasury secretary, came under fire from Republicans for failing to pay more than $40,000 in federal taxes.
But many Republican senators were not overly concerned with Mr. Moore’s finances on Thursday.
“Steve has the right intellect, the right philosophy and the right background,” said Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, and a member of the banking committee. “I’m not concerned — unless there are piles and piles and piles of these. People have tax issues from time to time, especially people who have had as many career changes as he has.”
Senator Richard Shelby, a member of the banking committee, said he was not familiar with details of the case, but suggested that Mr. Moore should be subjected to a full review of his past dealings if and when Mr. Trump formally nominates him.
“Scrub him,” Mr. Shelby said. “People got to do the right thing — and I assume he did — but it’s got to be scrubbed.”
Allies of Mr. Moore said that a simple tax snafu should not raise questions about his ability to help steer the United States economy. Macroeconomics, they said, is a much different beast than the tax code.
“Being a tax accountant is very different than being a good tax economist,” said Arthur Laffer, a prominent supply-side economist who recently wrote a book with Mr. Moore. “He’s very good on tax economics.”