The MSNBC host said in a press conference Wednesday that the $4.5 million was the original figure he was ordered to pay back in 2008, but that he has been making regular payments since then and the amount is now less.
Sharpton did not give the outstanding balance owed by him and his for-profit companies --Raw Talent and Revals Communications.
Rather, he focused his remarks on how much money his nonprofit group, the National Action Network, has paid back. The liens against that organization, however, were not lumped into the $4.5 million figure reported by the Times.
The Times reported that Sharpton is still liable for personal federal tax liens of more than $3 million, and state tax liens of $777,657. The companies owe another $717,329 on state and federal tax liens.
But Sharpton argued that it wasn't possible that he still owed $4.5 million.
"If we owed $4.5 million in '08 then how could we owe this now, unless you're saying that everybody just went to sleep on this and just gave us a pass, which is ridiculous," he said.
Sharpton has been a regular face in New York and Washington political circles. The report points out that President Barack Obama has raised money for Sharpton's group, and that Sharpton attended the recent announcement that Loretta Lynch would be the White House's pick to be the next Attorney General.
Sharpton's former aide Rachel Noerdlinger is also adviser to the wife of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chirlane McCray.
Sharpton argued that he and the National Action Network could feasibly each pay off their respective balances in one day, but could not yet afford to pay the penalties and interest.
Still, he said, it is "absolutely inaccurate" that he and his organization collectively owe $4.5 million--which is how much the Times said that he and his for-profit businesses owe.
His press conference came as his group prepares for the grand jury decision regarding police officer Darren Wilson to be announced in Ferguson, Missouri as soon as this week. Politics, he argued, was at the heart of negative stories about him in the press.
"Every time there's a Sean Bell or a Ferguson or a Trayvon Martin, we go through my taxes. It's the same agreement y'all. It's the same thing we announced in '09. It is the same thing we've been paying every month," he said.