Tax avoidance Feed

The prospect of paying millions in state taxes was a key of the reason that a giant floating oil platform ended up beached off an Alaskan island at the end of last year. The Kulluk, Shell's Arctic-class drill ship was grounded near Kodiak Island, Alaska, during bad weather on Dec. 31, 2012. Before the Kulluk settled into the shallow water, the U.S. Coast Guard sent in a helicopter to rescue the drill ship's crew. A week later, with the help of the high tide, recovery crews refloated the Kulluk and towed the conical drill ship to safe harbor at Alaska's... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service and its leaders, past, current and now on administrative leave, got most of the public attention last week as Congressional hearings continued into how the agency screwed up reviews of applications for tax-exempt status. The agency, according to a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report, used "inappropriate criteria" when employees placed conservative groups, notably those affiliated with the Tea Party, on a "be on the lookout" list when it came to determining whether the organizations should be given preferable tax status. But there was another Capitol Hill look into taxes that didn't have anything... Read more →

No, the headline isn't a joke. It's part of a question considered today by Chuck Klosterman, who writes The Ethicist column for the New York Times Sunday magazine. Here's the situation: I am a tax lawyer. Is advising wealthy companies of ways to reduce their tax bills through sophisticated legal structures ethically permissible? The structures take advantage of legal loopholes in the tax legislation. NAME WITHHELD, NEW YORK Klosterman replies: The ethics of specific professions create unique realms of responsibility. In the same way that a defense attorney is ethically obligated to give his client the best possible defense —... Read more →

We may hate our tax code and paying taxes, and we definitely are not very happy with the lawmakers who devise and constantly change our tax system, but U.S. taxpayers are committed to following it. That's the finding of the Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board in its latest annual look at what taxpayers are thinking. In fact, the 2012 Taxpayer Attitude Survey notes that we're more adamant than we've been in recent years about following the tax laws. "The public attitude that it is not at all acceptable to cheat on your income taxes increased between 2011 and 2012 to... Read more →

One of the first foreign language films I ever saw was The Return of Martin Guerre. Gérard Depardieu was so great that I made it a point to see every movie he made. Heck, I even dragged the hubby to Green Card. Crazy fans like me have made the actor a very rich man. So rich, in fact, that he recently decided it was time to leave his native France for a nearby tax haven. And by nearby, I mean nearby. Depardieu has settled in Nechin, Belgium, a village just 800 yards from the French border. Not only is Nechin... Read more →

Americans are, as they should be, focusing on the presidential election that's just over two weeks away. The winner of the White House could determine what income tax rates we'll pay. But some wealthy Americans who might consider moving based on the Nov. 6 election results also should keep an eye on the electorate in Switzerland. That Alpine nation, long known as a tax haven for the wealthy from the United States and Europe, might be making tax changes that could lessen its appeal to foreign expatriates. Passport stamps by hjl via Flickr Creative Commons Swiss residents who say they've... Read more →

Federal agencies, unlike private companies, are exempt from paying federal income taxes. But like the private sector, U.S. government agencies still must make employment tax deposits and meet related tax reporting requirements. That's not happening in all cases. In fact, it's not happening to the tune of $14 million in unpaid federal agency taxes. Those millions in tax money that Uncle Sam basically owes himself comes from 70 federal agencies that were responsible for 126 tax accounts that were delinquent at the end of 2011, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). It gets worse. TIGTA, in... Read more →

Or you a maker or a taker? While that question isn't particularly elegant either, it's how Republicans wish Mitt Romney had phrased his secretly taped comments at a Florida fundraiser. Most American are working hard, contributing to their families' support and success. If asked the maker or taker question, they would have said there is no way they are anything like the 47 percent of nontaxpayers whom Romney dismissed as eager dependents on the federal government. But the truth is that we are all takers in some way, dependent in some fashion on Uncle Sam, especially when it comes to... Read more →

Just in case you were otherwise occupied yesterday and missed it, below is the videotape of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney writing off 47 percent of the electorate. Those Americans, Romney told a group of potential donors, won't vote for him because they're getting a sweet, nontaxpaying deal under President Obama. "My job is not to worry about those people," Mitt Romney said of the 47 percent of Americans who, according to a tax think tank study, did not pay federal income taxes in 2011. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." After... Read more →

We Americans aren't the only ones watching opposing political parties duke it out over the tax burdens and responsibilities of wealthier citizens. In Great Britain, liberal and conservative politicians are having the same fight. The latest across the pond tax volley was fired by Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal-Democrat Party, who has proposed a one-time emergency tax on the wealth, rather than the incomes, of rich Britons. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer (roughly the United Kingdom's Treasury Department Secretary; that's him pictured there to the right), quickly torpedoed the idea, saying such a tax would... Read more →

Great Britain is trying a new tax collection technique: Shame. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the United Kingdom's equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service, wants to embarrass folks who are utilizing (or utilising if you use England's spelling) very aggressive tax shelters into paying more. The idea was sparked by revelations that many of wealthy U.K. residents are using tax loopholes to legally avoid paying HMRC. One estimate is that the country has missed out on up to 14 percent -- or around £5 billion; that's more than $7.7 billion in U.S. currency -- in uncollected taxes. Image courtesy... Read more →

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21 and also known as the Highway Investment, Job Creation, And Economic Growth Act Of 2012 (see my earlier rant about Congressional naming conventions for bills), is now awaiting Obama's signature. In addition to giving the OK for highway projects, the bill extended the national flood insurance program and, to the relief of students (and their parents) maintains for another year the 3.4 percent interest rate for federal student loans. So how will the new highway bill be paid? Per usual, Congress did some financial finagling to help cover... Read more →

Last week at my other tax blog it was all about Facebook, specifically reactions to expatriation and how it will save one new social media billionaire beaucoup taxes. Eduardo Saverin decided last year to give up his adopted U.S. citizenship and moved to Singapore. He says it was for business reasons, but the Facebook co-founder's tax expatriate strategy will save him around $67 billion in taxes. A lot of people are pounding Saverin for the move. A couple of U.S. senators even drafted a bill to make tax expatriates pay more. But is Saverin's tax move really any different than... Read more →

Home is where the heart, and tax savings, are for Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. That home now is in Singapore. Today's Facebook initial public offering could make Saverin around $4 billion richer. By renouncing his naturalized U.S. citizenship last September and relocating to the Asian city-state, Saverin will escape an estimated $67 million Internal Revenue Service bill. While Twitter posters like The Daily Edge are having fun at Saverin's expense, some folks don't think there's anything amusing about the former U.S. citizen's tax-saving move. Targeting tax expatriates: On the eve of the IPO, Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York... Read more →

Paul Hogan, better known to American moviegoers as Crocodile Dundee, and Australian tax officials have reached a settlement. Hogan and Oz tax officials have been going at each other for eight years over the $150 million in Australian currency ($156 million in the U.S. and £96 million in Great Britain) that national tax officials said the actor owed in taxes and penalties. At one point Hogan challenged Australian tax collectors to "come and get me, you miserable bastards." They didn't do that, but when Hogan returned to his native country in 2010 for his mother's funeral, officials briefly prevented him... Read more →

I'm a big fan of television, especially educational TV. No, not PBS, although I do watch Nova, Mystery and Downton Abbey. This time I'm talking about the April 13 episode of the classic TV game show Jeopardy. That day the Final Jeopardy category was word origins. The answer: An exploited part of a law, originally it meant an opening in a castle wall used to look at or shoot at an enemy. The correction question: What is a loophole? What a perfect way to close the program on the Friday before our federal tax returns were due. Tracking down tax... Read more →

Apple on corporate tax hot seat

Just as the 99 Percent movement is springing back to life with protests against companies that finagle very low or no tax rates comes another potential target: Apple. A New York Times special report looks at how the technology giant's careful selection of corporate subsidiary locations has saved it millions in federal and state taxes. People look at Apple products inside the newest Apple Store during opening on the East Balcony in the main lobby of New York City's Grand Central Station December 9, 2011. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TRAVEL) Take, for example, Apple's branch... Read more →

Protesters target corporations' minimal tax payments at shareholder meetings

The 99 percent contingent, or at least an offshoot of the protest group, is back. This time the anger is directed at major U.S. corporations that the protesters say aren't paying a fair share of taxes. At the beginning of General Electric's annual shareholder meeting in Detroit on Wednesday, three dozen protesters stood up and chanted "pay your fair share." The group was referring to reports that GE's tax strategies have allowed the company to zero out its U.S. tax bill and even receive refunds from Uncle Sam. The group was escorted from the meeting, according to the Detroit News,... Read more →

I love it when my profession, journalism, coincides with my passion, taxes. The latest occurrence is the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism just awarded New York Times reporter David Kocieniewski for his tax series "But Nobody Pays That." The award was in the explanatory reporting category for work that "illuminates a significant and complex subject, demonstrating mastery of the subject, lucid writing and clear presentation, using any available journalistic tool." The Pulitzer committee commended Kocieniewski for authoring a "lucid series that penetrated a legal thicket to explain how the nation's wealthiest citizens and corporations often exploited loopholes and avoided taxes."... Read more →

It was an amazin' haul of New York Mets memorabilia that the baseball team's former clubhouse manager amassed. Too bad Charlie Samuels' collection techniques were illegal. While the MLB club for which he worked most of his adult life was working out on a Florida spring training field, Samuels was in a Queens court admitting that he cashed in on millions of dollars worth of signed team hats, jerseys and other souvenirs that he stole. Samuels was charged with stealing 507 jerseys, 828 bats, 304 hats, 22 batting helmets and 10 equipment bags. The items, valued at almost $2.3 million,... Read more →