‘Dirty 30’ Tax Dodgers
Have a Loophole
Thursday, April 12, 2012
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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.