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Greed Has No Limit

I don’t know how it is that some whistleblower with a conscience got access to a Panamanian law firm’s files, but we’re all better off for it.  What the “Panama Papers” from the #MossackFonseca law firm show, in nauseating detail, is the extent to which the super rich will stoop to cheat on their taxes, with the able assistance of ethically-challenged law firms.


Yesterday’s Sunday New York Times ran a detailed piece, showing the mundane and absurd lengths to which the super wealthy and their handlers will go to hide their assets from taxing authorities.  It’s clearly sport to them.


It should not be seen as sport to the rest of us, who are left paying the bill.


How deeply cynical and entitled for these super-brats to think that the rules that society lives by don’t apply to them, and that it’s really o.k. to pay a relatively small fee to a Panamanian law firm to create their standard package of shell companies, phony beneficiaries, and hand-picked trustees to keep your assets forever out of sight.  Prison may be too good for them.  Bring back the stockades!  Public shaming is in order.


While tax compliance for the vast majority of Americans is not a matter of choice because taxes are withheld from paychecks, these oh-so-entitled folks find it offensive to pay for the infrastructure and hard-fought freedoms that made their fortunes possible in the first instance.


This is the kind of revelation that gives the Bernie Sanders supporters evidence of corruption so systemic that — they say — only a political revolution will suffice.  On the other end of the spectrum, Donald Trump refuses to show his tax returns.  Why?  Either because they will show he’s not as wealthy as he claims or because it will reveal aggressive use of loopholes that would offend most taxpayers who pay their fair share.  (Or are we just “losers,” too stupid to play the game?  Note from the real world:  American tax compliance is higher than many developed countries, and the countries that have low tax compliance are generally in big trouble, e.g., Greece.)


How about a simpler solution?    We enforce the laws.  We give the IRS the tools it needs to do its job.  We investigate the hell out of these high priority, big dollar, cases, and we put the money launderers in prison for stealing from society.  Forget about the small stuff for the time being.  Go after the big fish.  Put some teeth into the IRS whistleblower program and end this double standard.  Sure Fox News and the Wall Street Journal will cry foul about the heavy hand of government, blah, blah, blah.  But when you get right down to it, who’s really going to go to bat for these jerks who are stealing from the rest of us?

New York AG Wins Ruling to Pursue False Claims Act Case Brought By Whistleblower in Sprint-Nextel Corp. $130 Million Tax Fraud

New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman has been given permission by the New York Appellate Court to continue a lawsuit against Sprint-Nextel Corp. using the state’s False Claims Act. See Press Release. The suit alleges that Sprint was involved in a scheme to deliberately evade sales tax, which cost state and local governments approximately $130 million. The New York State False Claims Act specifically covers tax fraud and the Attorney General began its investigation of Sprint after a whistleblower filed a qui tam action in March 2011.


The suit alleges that Sprint has illegally failed to collect and pay New York sales taxes on revenue from mobile phone monthly access charges. The Attorney General contends that the company repeatedly and knowingly submitted false statements to New York state authorities in a seven-year scheme that is still ongoing. As with the Federal False Claims Act, the New York FCA mandates that parties found liable face treble damages, brining a potential recovery against Sprint to over $300 million. Unfortunately, the Federal FCA excludes tax fraud from its purview. See 31 U.S.C. § 3729(d). Instead, enforcement and recoveries depend on the IRS.


The suit is an example of the potential recovery for tax systems that can be obtained through the use of whistleblowers and zealous enforcement. In just two short years the New York State AG has managed to produce a suit that has the potential to recover hundreds of millions of dollars that will benefit taxpayers. While the IRS has a whistleblower program, so far there is little evidence that the agency has the zeal or the resources to leverage it. Let’s hope these types of actions by the NY Attorney General provide incentive for the IRS to use whistleblower’s knowledge and resources to pursue diligent enforcement of its own federal whistleblower program.