Wesley Snipes: The Mind of a Tax Rebel

Actor Wesley Snipes is facing three years in prison (pending appeal) for three misdemeanor charges of willful failure to file income tax returns, after years of following the exotic advice of "no one really owes income tax" tax advisor Eddie Kahn.

I spent a lot of time reading the writings of and hanging out with these sort of tax rebels for my May 2004 Reason magazine feature on their movement and ideas. Among the rank-and-file, I never met a one who I wasn't sure was absolutely sincere in their beliefs, not just out to pull a scam on Uncle Sam. (The ones selling the ideas, I was less sure, but even there sincerity is more common than you might expect.)

Snipes is profiled at length in the new GQ, in a story not online, at least not yet. But here is an interesting excerpt, presented without comment, about how and why he was willing to believe the legally dubious advice of Kahn:

"My cultural experience is such that I know we're been deceived. We've seen examples of lies and information purposely withheld or distorted or misrepresented....And you become a little skeptical of what they say to you....So it's easy to believe that there's something that's hidden, that there's something that they might not be telling you, or that there might be information out there that is accessible to you if you do the research, but nobody's going to give it to you....What I'm saying is that I know that there are people out there that have information and benefit from things that the majority of people in this country do not know or do not get the benefit of...there is information people are not privy to."

GQ's writer Chris Heath asks Snipes: "So you think there is secret information that a group of people are deliberately trying to keep from the rest of us?" Snipes replies: "I don't believe that. I know that for a fact."

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  • ||

    Ha...lets mock conspiracy theorists and encourage people to pay their taxes. Taxes are good and morally correct. We all know that the Warren Buffets, Henry Paulsons and Tim Geithners don't benefits from any special traeatment regarding taxes....pure silly black man alert.

  • Bingo||

    You aren't funny or insightful, stop posting.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    +1

  • ||

    I'd like to concur with CO in his unfunnyness/uninsightulness.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    He is right about Geithner, at least.

  • ||

    Yeah, don't say a word.

  • ||

    Buffet didn't want the estate 'death tax' repealed. Why? Because his Berkshire Hathaway has a company that sells death insurance. Tax free death insurance. ( Ok for him, not you ). Further he has another company that will buy your business now, let you have a big chunk of profit, and keep you on to run it. Another tax dodge, for his profit.

    In BH's report for this year, they bought BNSF railroad, and have said they will 'partner' with the federal government and get 'support'. Buffet is for higher gas taxes to drive freight from truckers to.....anyone? Bueller?

    When Paulson left GS to become Treasury, he sold his GS stock. Taxes paid? Zero. Public estimated savings? 200 million.

    It's nice to have friends.

  • ||

    Concerning Buffet: BH is so succesful partly because of the nature of the company - it's a well-run conglomerate (a rare beast). It's divisions are well-positioned in many different sectors of the economy. And the 'insider' knowledge of all of these divisions is funneled up to corporate where Buffet and Munger act on it - legal insider trading. Nothing wrong with that, but it can certainly seem like 'secret knowledge' to those who don't have it.

    As for Paulsen's stock sale (not that I'm defending him), the sale was required by law and he didn't avoid taxes, they were deferred (from an article in Slate: www.slate.com/id/2143018): "Conflict-of-interest laws say senior government officials can't hold on to investments that could benefit from decisions they might make.... Consequently, Paulson sold his Goldman shares and put the money in a blind trust....When you sell assets to conform to government ethics requirements, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics issues a certificate of divestiture (it's summarized here) that lets you defer capital-gains taxes triggered by the transaction....".

    There's a lot more on this in the article; interesting stuff. The public policy purpose is obvious; it allows talented people to serve in government without taking a huge bath financially (although it doesn't guarantee their conduct once in office).

  • Some Guy||

    +1x10^10

  • kinnath||

    What I'm saying is that I know that there are people out there that have information and benefit from things that the majority of people in this country do not know or do not get the benefit of...there is information people are not privy to.

    After watching the votes materialize to pass HCR, I believe Wesley is on to something.

  • ||

    "So you think there is secret information that a group of people are deliberately trying to keep from the rest of us?"

    Of course there is. Whether it is the secret information that frees you from any obligation to pay income tax, well, probably not.

  • josey||

    "...obligation requirement to pay..."

    Might seem like a minor distinction, but...

  • Edwin||

    The income tax code and all it's exemptions and other minutiae most certainly favor the rich

    BUT IT'S NOT A SECRET

    little examples: you can write off the interest in your house, AND a second house (that you live in "seasonally"), AND the second house can actually be a boat

  • WTF||

    The income tax code and all it's exemptions and other minutiae most certainly favor the rich

    Probably because they pay the lion's share of the taxes. "Progressive" rates, and all that.

    If you can't afford a liveaboard boat, then it shouldn't matter one squid's rectum that the guy who can afford a 50-foot yacht can deduct the interest on his boat loan. He first has to have enough income against which to take the deduction, or else the deduction does him no good.

  • ||

    For the record RV and motors count as second homes as well

  • ||

    But don't try to deduct your auto loan interest if you have to live in your car.

  • Jordan Elliot (Kyle Jordan)||

    I like the blatant leading of the reader that the writer partakes in with his follow up question.

    In a benign, non conspiratorial way, Snipes may be somewhat correct. Things such as legal guidelines that are buried in seemingly endless text and worded either vaguely or confusingly is one example I can think of. They're not "common knowledge" and have to be specifically sought out by someone and once found, may not really yield any answers or help.

    I'll admit that's stretching a bit though.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I took it as meaning that certain people know information that make it easier to come out ahead... or know when someone is breathing down your neck too closely, and you need to keep your shit low.

  • ||

    The secret is that you need to pay off the right people and then use the existing loopholes concerning insurance companies/non-profit foundations/religion and banks. You can use the loopholes now but you'll still be breaking one of the thousands of laws...so that is why you gotta pay politicians a bit as well.

  • smartass sob||

    You can't breathe in this country without breaking some law they can always find to apply to you.

  • BakedPenguin||

  • ||

  • Terence Snipes||

    Well said

  • Tim||

    It's not what you know, it's who you know, and if Wesley Snipes knew Barack Obama he might be Secretary of the Treasury now.

  • Dello||

    Helpful information buried in legalese? That's what high paid accountants and lawyers are for. Didn't you ever wonder why so many politicians (lawmakers) are lawyers?

  • Absinthe Scotch Hamilton||

    I believe in putting my money where my mouth is, so I actually paid EXTRA income tax this year!

  • Shorter Absinthe Scotch Hamilt||

    I wrap dollar bills around throbbing cocks.

  • botw||

    I pay extra income tax almost every year. So far, I've gotten most of it back, sans interest of course. That's a tax law I'd like to see, make the gov't pay us the same interest on our forced loans as it charges for late payments.

  • ||

    Better yet, get rid of withholding altogether.

  • Tim||

    Snipes killed a lot of vampires and now, out of professional courtesy, the IRS is getting even...

  • ||

    That's self preservation, not professional courtesy.

  • ||

    Not sure which is funnier, the original comment by Tim, or the follow-up by J. Either way, it's a great way to start the day!

  • Brett L||

    winner.

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    But here is an interesting excerpt, presented without comment, about how and why he was willing to believe the legally dubious advice of Kahn

    Occam's Razor suggests that Snipes is just greedy and is now rationalizing...

  • Kolohe||

    Occam's razor suggest that most movie stars are not the sharpest, um, blades in the cupboard.

  • smartass sob||

    Occam's Razor suggests that the IRS is just making an example out of Snipes lest the rest of us start thinking we can take liberties.

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    Of course. The IRS is actually a relatively powerless organization that depends on the honesty of the American people to pay their taxes for the most part. And they will make examples of high-profile tax evaders like Snipes and the guy who won the first Survivor as a way of intimidating common folk.

  • Absinthe Scotch Hamilton||

    HA!

  • ||

    Mom tried to claim she was supporting her kids when in fact the grandparents were. You are right, there is no way possible to support 3 bodies on 10/hr. To be a dependent YOU have to provide over half their support, and she obviously doesn't. Yeah those tax forms are a little tricky you have to read the instructions.

  • WTF||

    The IRS is "Relatively powerless"?

    For those too lazy to click the link, it's a request for quotes:

    "The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intends to purchase sixty Remington Model 870 Police RAMAC #24587 12 gauge pump-action shotguns for the Criminal Investigation Division. The Remington parkerized shotguns, with fourteen inch barrel, modified choke, Wilson Combat Ghost Ring rear sight and XS4 Contour Bead front sight, Knoxx Reduced Recoil Adjustable Stock, and Speedfeed ribbed black forend, are designated as the only shotguns authorized for IRS duty based on compatibility with IRS existing shotgun inventory, certified armorer and combat training and protocol, maintenance, and parts."

    Yeah, the IRS is so "powerless," it has its own armorer. Not to mention hordes of attorneys who wield some pretty impressive powers (not like x-ray vision or flight, or anything, but damn near close).

  • ||

    14" barrel, ghost ring sights....sounds like a sweet setup!

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    What I meant is that if everybody in America just decided they were not going to pay taxes the IRS would not be able to do much about it.

  • The IRS||

    Just try it, buddy.

  • ||

    Similar if everyone robs a bank on the same. There isn't enough police to stop every bank in the county being robbed

  • barfman||

    *barf*

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Scotch, putting someone in prison for tax evasion fills up half a cell best used by filling it with child molesters and other real criminals.

  • Ska||

    What do you think is a better strategy to collecting underpaid taxes - going after 100,000 common working stiffs who lied about their charitable contributions by a few bucks, or going after one movie star that claimed zero income on however many millions of dollars in income that others reported to him?

  • ||

    Snipes is a novice when it comes to greed. Those at the top are the only ones against upward mobility. And they write, enforce and often ignore the law as they choose.

  • Wesley Snipe||

    Always bet on black

  • ||

    I blame whitey.

  • Niggaz With Hats||

    He’ll rip you off. He’ll take your money, make you work for free. Though you may scoff. It isn’t funny. He’s the devil, see. Kill Whitey.

  • Tone Def||

    When you wipe, do you look at the tissue?
    Most folks do, it ain't even an issue

  • ||

    I'm thinking of George Carlin when I ask "how do blind people know when they're done wiping?"

  • ¢||

    It is impossible to write about Nelson Mandela these days and not compare him to another potentially transformational black leader, Wesley Snipes, yo.

  • adam||

    No sh*t. Why do you think corporations and wealthy people spend hundreds or thousands per hour for high priced lawyers, accountants, bankers, etc. They know the tricks, loopholes, right people, etc. that the average person doesn't know.

  • Scotch Hamilton||

    Hey, this is Reason, you are not allowed to criticize rich people.

  • Jordan||

    Who said that was criticism?

  • Corduroy Rocks||

    Idiot. I'm falling for the bait here.

    The overhead of complying with tax law is yet another way that big business stifles competition from small business. Every new regulation that comes onto the books is another reason to pay some high-priced tax accountant to do your books. There is no value added to society or the economy from the complexity of the tax code.

  • WTF||

    The overhead of complying with tax law is yet another way that big business stifles competition from small business.

    Yeah, because big business just loves paying tax attorneys hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to deal with the tax code for them.

  • Corduroy Rocks||

    In the same sense that Wal-Mart wanted a higher national standard for healthcare so that Target would have to pay more to their employees, more complex tax codes benefit those who have the resources and will to use them to their advantage. The overhead of compliance is spread over a larger pool of money. Try starting a new business and just see how much work there is in trying to come into compliance with the IRS (and every other regulatory agency), let alone trying to generate business.

    I'm certain that big business doesn't want to pay taxes period, but if they can gain a competitive benefit from the complexity of the code and/or lobbying for special tax treatment, then they will.

  • ||

    Just a comment on your comment. Big business or small business or medium sized business corporations DO NOT PAY TAXES. Corporate Income taxes are factored into the PRICE/s we all pay for good and services.

    It continues to amaze me that people don't understand basic business, accounting practices, taxes, economics. Oh, I forgot... too lazy to learn anything usually.

  • ||

    They would rather pay lawyer fees of $10 million a year rather than have to put up with 1,000 competitors each making or 'stealing' revenue of $10K a year

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    +1

  • WTF||

    Why criticize rich people merely for having more money than you do?

    Why is that any more noble than criticizing poor people for being poor?

  • The Gobbler||

    QFMFT

  • Bruce||

    Jealousy - plain and simple.
    Look - if the tax laws were fair and equally applied, taxes would not be such an issue. The problem is they are not. Nitwit VP Biden says taxing the "rich" more than others isn't "wealth distribution - it's simple fairness" is just so much bullshit. It's somehow fair to tax the top 2% of money earners and contribute 40% of tax revenues because Rufus is upset they make more than he does?

    Fair is a Fair Tax - a straight 3-5% flat tax across the board no matter what you earn. It all evens out - the less successful will pay less because they buy less (stealing doesn't count). The wealthy will pay more because they buy more. Sounds fair to me. Now lets talk about scum like Charlie rangel and government tax cheats before we start calling out the people who actually produce for the country. And I say this as a retired guy who never made more than $50k/yr in his life.

  • spambot||

    Yeah if the Democrats would just make tax law simple that would really fix those guys! Oh WAIT!!!

  • WTF||

    The "average person" doesn't know most of that stuff because the "average person" doesn't need to. A lot of the deductions and arcane provisions are things the average person would never deal with or qualify for anyhow.

    You have to make enough money to have income against which to take deductions; let's not forget that, folks.

  • ||

    The "average person" former President of the NY Fed and current Treasury Secretary/Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and doesn't know most of that stuff because the "average person" as an Obama supporter, he doesn't need to because he'll get a free pass regardless.

  • adam||

    That's true in some ways- most of the complex deductions are business deductions. Of course, those exist in large part because businesses hire lobbyists, lawyers, accountants, to exploit loopholes, get new laws, etc.

    But there are also a lot of deductions for low income folks, and many don't take full advantage.

  • Xeones||

    I've been in a lot of conversations lately about how Demolition Man might just be the movie that most accurately predicts our near future. If Wesley Snipes goes to prison, we're one step closer.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Does this mean we've passed Predator?

    Where is Carl Wethers when you need him?

    GET TO THE CHOPPA!

  • ||

    Carl Weathers is due to be governor of a state any day now.

  • Carl Weathers||

    There's some meat on that idea. Throw in some photographs, a few interviews, maybe a blimp...baby, you got a campaign goin'!

  • bmp1701||

    I've been hoping for a Franchise War myself.

  • Butts Wanger||

    If Wesley Snipes goes to prisonCryoPrison

  • ||

    Back when the Constitution was being written there was arguing about weather a majority, or a 2/3'ds vote would be best to raise taxes.

    Well, I'm for tax jury nullification. If you can not get all 12 jury members to support you tax conviction, the act is moot.

  • Terence Snipes||

    Hey, just wanted to say YES, I agree!
    It must be that all 12 concur, hopefully they are not biased wrong or tax supporters.

  • ||

    Any person who thinks Nelson Mandela is a superior human being vis-a-vis Wesley Snipes should be exiled to Soweto, permanently.

  • ||

    Do the trolls get together off-board to see which one gets to bring the stupid to which thread? If not, it's a fascinating emergent behavior.

  • ||

    Seeing as it's all probably one person, it's just sad.

  • sage||

    I read once that Joe Rogan challenged Snipes to a fight. I'd like to see that, if for no other reason than for Rogan to get kicked right in his fat mouth.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Rogan's no chump. He's got martial arts skills.

  • ||

    This is slightly relevant.

    "SHUT UP DANNY DEVITO!!!"

  • ||

    He's got martial arts skills.

    Nunchuck skills, computer hacking skills, bowhunting skills . . . .

  • Corduroy Rocks||

    But did he catch me a really nice bass?

  • ||

    Thank you, Corduroy, thank you.

  • ||

    He thinks the Moon landing was faked. Doofus.

  • Byron||

    If it were a UFC-style MMA fight, Rogan wins it. Brown belt in BJJ + Black belt in TKD > 5th Dan Black belt in Shotokan Karate in that format. Street fight, most likely the same, but who knows (and it wouldn't ever be arranged as such).

  • ||

    Sounds like Bullshido to me. I've known a couple of moderately high-ranked martial artists in my time, and they weren't in the habit of making loudmouth public challenges to fight people.

    -jcr

  • Bruce||

    Mr. Rogan - say hello to my friend Mr. Glock. Still feeling chesty?

  • DMXRoid||

    Some motherfuckers always tryin to ice skate uphill.

  • ||

    +1

  • Jamie Kelly||

    Snipes is profiled at length in the new GQ, in a story not online, at least not yet

    You mean, you had to actually BUY a fucking magazine? Doherty, you are a so-3-years-ago fucktard.

  • ||

    Even worse, he bought GQ. It's not so much a magazine as it is 150 pages of ads with a magazine alleged to exist somewhere within the labyrinthine folds.

  • ||

    You just defined a majority of magazines, especially women's magazines.

  • Corduroy Rocks||

    I always have the same decision to make. GQ or some other lame-ass magazine or let my air miles expire. I lose something either way.

  • ||

    And this is why Wesley believes as he does:

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/1035.....te-like-me

    Saturday Night Live needs to be more socially responsible.

  • johnl||

    Nativo Lopez has recently adopted this ideology. Gustavo covers it a bit here.
    http://blogs.ocweekly.com/nave.....ly-certif/

  • ||

  • ||

    there is information people are not privy to.

    Since when do libertarians think the division of labor is a bad thing?

    I don't know shit about baking bread. Yet somehow through the division of labor i am able to benefit from the knowledge i am not privy to yet bakers are privy to.

  • JT||

    "So you think there is secret information that a group of people are deliberately trying to keep from the rest of us?" Snipes replies: "I don't believe that. I know that for a fact."

    Daschle, Geithner, and Rangel can attest to the validity of this belief.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    FREE SNIPES!

  • ||

    The problem with trying to beat the tax man in the courts, is that the courts are quite aware of who pays their salaries. Most of the activities of the Federal government are unconstitutional in the first place; why would anyone expect to 1) beat them in their own courts, and 2) actually see them comply with a ruling that goes against them?

    -jcr

  • ||

    Everyone is duly aware, aren't they? that tax disputes go to a special star chamber....no fear that the government would ever trust such disputes to a jury of one's peers.

    http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/about.htm

    The fix is in however you look at it.

  • Dave||

    You can file a civil tax claim in district court, tax court or the US court of claims. Since Snipes was sued for criminal charges that would have been in a federal district court.

  • ||

    One can win if one has a case. Just look at the history of the tax treatment of demutualization. To briefly summarize: when a mutual life insurance company (one owned by the policyholders) converts to a stock life insurance company (one owned by the stockholders), the life insurance company has to compensate the policyowners with shares commensurate with their equity stake. The IRS had taken the position that the cost basis in such acquired shares was -0- (that in essence the shares were a gift to the policyowners), and that ALL proceeds from the sale of such stock were taxable. I faced this situation when I sold my shares in ManuLife Canada (acquired through demutualization). I thought the IRS position ludicrous on its face (although their argument was at least plausible), and so reported the sale with a basis of the IPO price and defied the IRS (even though the -0- cost basis is CLEARLY spelled out in IRS Publications), saving me 4 digits in taxes. But I knew that I didn't have the resources to take on the IRS if they came back at me. Fortunately, I didn't have to; someone else did. And they fought the IRS and won in Tax Court AND District Court. An instructive tale: see the article on demutualization at www.calt.iastate.edu

  • ||

    What is it that makes people so lacking in sympathy for people convicted of tax evasion? Is it the idea that somewhere, someone that you are culturally required to envy is getting away with something? I really want to know this. From my own experience, the claim that it's only the rich who have problems with their taxes or a desire to pay less is about as delusional as you can get. From all the comments I've read in articles like this, from tax court juries, etc., there's more sympathy for pedophiles providing babysitting services than someone who lands in tax court for failing to pay enough. The "punish the evader!" response just doesn't happen in most other countries. Why has the US embraced it so fanatically? You are aware that this has allowed the US, through a combination of atypical tax policy and enforcement, not to mention the ancillary fees necessary to be even remotely in compliance (maybe), to have the highest taxes, and one of the most oppressive tax regimes in the world? That's not hyperbole.

    You can work at (not even own) a lemonade stand in some countries with comparable progressive tax rates and earn a living wage, and it's the exemptions, enforcement, and a consideration of income as actual income rather than revenue that makes the difference. Well, beyond the fact that we shut down our lemonade stands in the US for failure to get a license (by which the government can collect fees and demand, yes, tax. Oh, those evil, tax-evading children.)

    But everyone in the US would rather crucify the tax evaders, playing into the hands of every parasite that demands more taxes and more heavy-handed enforcement, and the corrupt agency that does so with a rule book constructed of self-righteousness and expedient whimsy.

    Why?

  • Bruce||

    Is there a question there? I thought you already answered HERE:
    "What is it that makes people so lacking in sympathy for people convicted of tax evasion? Is it the idea that somewhere, someone that you are culturally required to envy is getting away with something?"

  • ||

    Snipes is only an amateur tax cheat. Compare him to professionals such as Tim Geithner, Charlie Rangel, Jessie Jackson Jr., Al Sharpton and many congressmen and their aides.

    "So you think there is secret information that a group of people are deliberately trying to keep from the rest of us?".

    Well if you don't believe that then explain how every Senator and Congressman becomes a millionaire after a few years in service. Explain how every Senator and Congressman has a portfolio that outperforms the market.

    Can you say 'insider trading'? Yes we can.

    If you don't believe it's true then you'll be happy to buy some carbon credits from Vice President Gore's carbon offset firms. Buy them soon, Al Gore needs another houseboat.

  • Bruce||

    Absolutely right on the hicky-doo! Ask yourselves also - "why would someone spend millions of dollars to get a job that pays at most $170k/yr?" ... and then leave office with millions in the bank - not counting any election money they're allowed to keep. Lawyer writing laws and codes that will benefit them when they leave the public teat. Conflict of interest, maybe? Should be a law that any lawyer winning public office must turn in his license to practice law until a minimum of 5 years after leaving any public office.

  • Paul A'Barge||

    "...but even there sincerity is more common..."

    How about "their sincerity".

    Didn't your grammar checker pick this up?

  • ||

    I took that to mean, "even there [, in that situation,] sincerity is more common than you might expect."

    But way to pick up on the really critical part of this article. Kudos.

  • Toad||

    I thought he was talking about ACORN

  • ||

    Mr. Snipes isn't very bright or he's still trying to "get over" on the MAN. Then again, if we had a simple tax code and flat tax, or NO INCOME TAX but a Value Added Tax, the Nation would thrive as Tax Preparers went out of business and the IRS slimmed down to nothing.

    Then TAX REVENUES would soar!

  • ||

    Needs a Geitner/Rangel defence.

  • Terence Snipes||

    Go go Mr Snipes. I am on your side. I have done the same for many reasons. So I willfully do unto them so they can be fair in their extortion methods!
    Taxation without representation is BAD! using your money to kill others or torture them is wrong. So I stopped giving. I do not support evil or criminals. I do nor pay them to kicj=k my butt!

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