‘Dirty 30’ Tax Dodgers

Have a Loophole

Thursday, April 12, 2012
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MIA AT THE IRS: I know a Santa Barbara guy I’m pretty sure has never filed a tax return in his life. He flies under the IRS radar. Its computers probably never glommed onto him.

To the feds, he’s MIA.

On the other hand, he currently earns little if any money that I’m aware of and, as of 2012, probably owes no taxes. He is not, of course, one of the so-called “Dirty 30” U.S. corporate tax dodgers who paid zero federal taxes between 2008 and 2010, thanks to loopholes okayed by Congress, according to the nonprofit Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).

Barney Brantingham

While paying nothing, they got $10.6 billion back in tax rebates. The Dirty 30 gratefully gave $41 million in “campaign contributions” to needy members of Congress during the past election cycles.

The list of the five most generous donors to these down-and-outers included Santa Barbara’s own phone service provider Verizon. It ring-a-dinged $3,201,550 out of America’s monthly bills to send to poverty-stricken Congressional welfare cases since 2005.

Millions of people a year do not even bother to file a return. They opt out of the system, or try to. Sort of a catch-me-if-you-can game.

If you try, the IRS, equipped with a zillion computers, will likely come after you. Actor Wesley Snipes is now doing prison time after following the faulty advice of those who claim that filing a tax return is purely “voluntary.” The IRS said he owed big-time. Snipes fought in court and lost.

Singer Willie Nelson famously didn’t pay $6.5 million in taxes. The feds seized his property. (I still love his songs.)

WALL STREET: Like ’em or not, taxes help the economy function, but anyone reading Michael Lewis’s books Liar’s Poker and The Big Short has to also wonder about the part played by that citadel of greed, Wall Street ​— ​and the people who run it.

Take its most infamous character, Howie Hubler. He didn’t own Morgan Stanley investment banking house; he just cost it $9 billion in a single 2007 trade, just as the whole housing market came crashing down. Wall Street firms were “committing suicide,” in Lewis’s words.

It was, Lewis said, “more than any single trader ever lost in the history of Wall Street.” Lewis, who spoke at UCSB last week before a full house, described Hubler in The Big Short as “loud and headstrong and bullying.”

Hubler, with little oversight by his bosses, bet billions of dollars during the subprime mortgage craze, aimed at making billions based on loans to ordinary people unlikely to make the payments. When the mortgages crashed, as the smart money knew they would, so did Wall Street and Main Street. Hubler was smart but not smart enough. He went off on vacation from Morgan Stanley and never returned, collected millions he’d “earned,” and is now back in business.

Lewis, who also wrote The Blind Side and Moneyball (both made into movies), said he’s working on a script for Liar’s Poker, the high-risk gambling game that also describes what the “best and the brightest” college grads were doing while chasing millions.

In Liar’s Poker, Lewis tells of his amazement, when he was 24, with zero experience, that a major investment bank would pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense advice about which stocks would rise or fall. That was in the go-go 1980s, before he quit to write.

Now he’s a hot author who recently spent a few days following President Obama around for a book or article about what it’s like to be president, “to walk in his shoes.” One observation Lewis left with the UCSB audience about the stresses the nation and the world place on a U.S. president: “We’ve turned this into a terrible job.”

CREDITORS: This is a stunning piece of theater, written by a master, August Strindberg. It dates to the 1880s, but the struggles ​— ​in this case involving two men and a woman ​— ​are as elemental as ever. It shows at Ensemble Theatre Company’s Alhecama Theatre (914 Santa Barbara St.) through Sunday, April 15.

KRONOS: How many musical marriages last 40 years? The Kronos Quartet, famous for four decades, will perform the works of Mr. Minimalist, Steve Reich, tonight, April 12, at 8 p.m. at UCSB’s Campbell Hall.

SHE STOOPS: She Stoops to Conquer is no naughty 1960s romp, but Oliver Goldsmith’s chaotic comedy dating to the 1700s. A National Theatre Live rebroadcast will be shown at UCSB’s Campbell Hall, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. and at the Lobero (33. E. Canon Perdido St.), April 19, at 7:30 p.m.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Everyone that earns money should pay at least some tax, from a minimum wage worker to Verizon, it includes them in the system.

One thing though. Taxes make the government function, but they don't do much to make the economy function, unless it's the economy based upon government spending.

Botany (anonymous profile)
April 12, 2012 at 11:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hmmm, I know at least two sixty plus year Santa Barbara citizens, p and pillars of our local community, (back when it was still a real local community without all the hosh posh & riff raff), who have refused to file their taxes for over forty years. Now they make little enough to tuck away deep in our mountains living such peaceful lives as a hermit, focusing on their own spiritual and mindful needs as apposed to worrying about the April 15th deadline. Nor have they ever had a cell phone, generations since a landline, and certainly no bank account. Cash only and living day to day, in the moment, with little to no authority to tell them when, where and how to spend their petty income (over time having played the money making roller coaster, living more comfortably that most of us "lower" to middle class Santa Barbarians will ever here in this rat race). Both had supported a true local California economy, keeping it circulating with it's people not it's policies. Leaving the rest of us to pay Verizon (who took over my favorite oldtime local Greek and Italian deli so that the owners could receive $25,000 a month for the next 15 yrs) or for our police department to receive new paint jobs for their vehicles. The hotels such as the Miramar are estimated to generate taxes for the schools, fire department etc...not to mention the expansion of the freeway which allows for more influx of transplants and immigrants to this edge if the continent...I remember the stoplight on the 101, my grandpa road a horse to town. Nonetheless, I admire those who have avaded taxes, and no I have no affinity for any political party. You may see me at solstice with flowers in my hair, or in the backcountry carrying a crossbow for protection, surfing, fishing, or at our local juicebar. I am inspired by these individuals who get far more out of life without the stress of the "Man," while focusing on what's more important, enjoying what the Universe teaches us and giving back any way we our local economy and the Earth we stand on. So until I step out of a bi-monthly paycheck, and look forward to my $1500 tax return each year so that I can pay off my student loans LOL, and go to the grocery store a couple of times..I will keep my cell use to a minimum, keep only pennies in my bank account, use cash only, and exchange to gold coins when the price is right...hide up in my beloved hills away from all the transplants and with the birds and the bees...cause it's this lifetime that is so short....and when we chose this lifetime, i'm not so sure how much we thought about which country we'd prefer to pay taxes too when we were coming out of the womb.

cinderella (anonymous profile)
April 13, 2012 at 9:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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