Tax Day: Famous cheats and corporate avoiders

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It’s tax day.

If you haven’t already, you still have time to file your 2016 taxes or face penalties.

But, ever wonder who doesn’t pay their fair share? Some of the more famous tax avoiders have been some of the county’s wealthiest and well known citizens.

Businesswoman and real estate tycoon Leona Helmsley was known as the “Queen of Mean.” In 1989, she served 18 months in a federal prison for evading $1.2 million in taxes and paid $7.1 million in fines in addition to the $1.7 million back taxes. Helmsley allegedly said “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

Ty Warner of the Beanie Babies fame hid $24 million in Swiss bank accounts and had about $27 million in unpaid back taxes when he was convicted and sentenced to two years’ probation, 500 hours of community service. He had to pay a $53 million civil penalty.

in 1931, Chicago mobster Al Capone pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges. He had to pay up $215,000 plus interest on his back taxes, which is more than $3 million in today’s dollars.

Actor Wesley Snipes, of Blades trilogy and White Men Can’t Jump, spent time in the McKean  Federal Correctional Institute in Bradford, Pa., for not filing his tax returns

Former Phillies Pete Rose served five months in 1990 on federal tax-evasion charges after he failed to report $354,968 in income from memorabilia sales, autograph signings and personal appearances.

Country singer Willie Nelson recorded the album Who’ll Buy My Memories? (The I.R.S. Tapes) to pay down his $16.7 million tax debt in a 1990 agreement with the IRS. The government seized most of his property but spared Trigger, the name for his favorite guitar. The album was well received by critics.

Corporate tax loopholes have been a target for politicians wanting to level the playing field.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has made corporate tax reform one of his signature platforms. Last month, he proposed legislation aimed at preventing corporations from avoiding U.S. taxes.

“The truth is that we have a rigged tax code that has essentially legalized tax-dodging for large corporations,” Sanders said during a press conference. 

A list of top corporate tax avoiders is on his website.

1. General Electric –  from 2008 to 2013, the company made $33.9 billion and received a tax refund of more than $2.9 billion. The company received $16 billion in assistance during the financial crisis. Sanders called out the company for having $108 billion in offshore accounts in 2012 and for sending good paying jobs to China and Mexico.

2. Boeing – from 2008 to 2013, the aircraft manufacturer made $26.4 billion and received a $401 million refund. It has also resourced jobs overseas.

3. Verizon – from 2008 to 2013 the telecom giant made $42.4 billion in profits and got a refund of $732 million. In 2012, the company put $1.8 billion in offshore accounts

4. Bank of America – received a $1.9 billion tax refund in 2010 while making $4.4 billion in profits. In 2012, the company had $17.2 billion in offshore accounts where it paid no taxes. Sanders estimated the bank would owe $4.3 billion if it did not have accounts in foreign tax havens.

5. Citigroup – made more than $4 billion but paid no federal income taxes and received a $2.5 trillion bailout during the financial crisis. In 2012, the company had $42.6 billion in offshore accounts.

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