There are all sorts of awards given, but the award I give is special. To be considered for the Tax Offender of the Year award, you must do more than cheat on your taxes. It has to be special; it really needs to be a Bozo-like action or actions.
In 2005 Sharon Lee Caulder won the inaugural award. Quoting from my post, “Sharon Lee Caulder, formerly of Oakland and now from New Orleans, our voodoo priestess who wrote a book and was convicted of tax evasion. She did not include the $1.7 million she earned between 1998 and 2002 (mainly from sales of her book, Mark of Voodoo, on her tax returns”. As I wrote when she was convicted, “Voodoo is more profitable than I realized, especially if your net income after taxes is the same as your net income before taxes (until Uncle Sam catches you).”
Now, on to 2007. There have been lots of tax fraudsters this year. But one stands out. No, it’s not Wesley Snipes. Mr. Snipes hasn’t been convicted yet, so technically he’s not an offender. (He certainly has a good shot at the 2008 award, though.)
The story begins back in 2000. A Camarillo, California company is sued for patent infringement and settles the case for “tens of millions of dollars.” Now, if you owned that business what would you do? Would you look for new income producing lines of business? Would you develop workarounds so that you wouldn’t be infinging on the patents? Or would you decide to commit tax fraud just to get back at the federal judge who allowed the miscarriage of justice (in your view) to happen?
If you’re thinking that no one could have such a bad motive to commit tax fraud you’d be wrong. This actually happened.
As I detailed earlier this year, Gene Haas did exactly that. The former CEO and owner of Haas Automation, Inc. created a phony Nevada company and enlisted the help of his then CFO to commit tax fraud. Here’s what I wrote:
So, enlisting the help of his then CFO, John Phillips, the business created a phony company in Nevada called “Supermill,” and then paid the phony company from phony invoices. Then Mr. Haas and Mr. Phillips got in a business dispute, Mr. Haas sued Mr. Phillips for $27 million (apparently related to the phony transactions), and Mr. Phillips went to the FBI and told them of the scheme. (Mr. Phillips was not indicted.) It’s not a good idea when you commit tax fraud to get a co-conspirator angry enough to go to the FBI.
The DOJ, in a press release announcing Haas’ indictment, claimed that the tax fraud was upwards of $20 million. Now, with a $5 million fine added in, penalties, and interest, the total judgment is somewhere around $70 million. And Mr. Haas will be receiving two years at ClubFed.
If you find yourself losing a court case, I strongly recommend that you do not follow Mr. Haas’ path, and decide that committing tax fraud is a way of getting back at the judge. Kenneth Barish, an attorney for Mr. Haas, in describing the plea deal, noted, “[u]nder the circumstances, it was a good result.” When paying $70 million and getting two years at ClubFed is a good result, you wonder what a bad result would be.
As for Gene Haas, he was formally sentenced in November to two years at ClubFed, payment of the taxes, penalties, and interest (totaling about $70 million), and a fine of $5 million. Added to the $30 million or so he paid for the patent infringement case, that’s a whopping $105 million plus two years at ClubFed. Yes, Mr. Haas threw away two years of his life and $75 million.
That’s a wrap for 2007. While I’d love to not have anyone commit such a bozo tax crime as Mr. Haas did, I fully expect to see at least one similar story in the coming year. I have complete confidence in Americans to commit bozo tax crimes.