New York hotel entrepreneur, the late Leona Helmsley was heard to say that “only the little people pay taxes”. She was right. You and I pay every penny we owe, just like millions of others in North America. It’s the filthy rich that get away with tax scams, those who don’t need a tax break at all. So who are the world’s worst tax cheats? Let me introduce my three finalists to you.
1. WALTER ANDERSON is an American telephone mogul who holds the record as the world’s biggest tax evader. A college dropout, he began his telecommunications career in sales, eventually morphing into an entrepreneur in the industry. Anderson was arrested in 2005 for secreting his corporate earnings in offshore accounts in Panama and the British Virgin Islands.
He plead guilty in 2006 to evading taxes on $365 million and was sentenced to nine years in prison and a restitution order of $200 million. His scams involved shell companies, offshore tax havens and secret accounts. Due to a “technicality” his fine was later reduced to a mere $23 million. Anderson continues to protest his innocence on his website “justiceforwalt”.
2. Country singer/songwriter WILLIE NELSON, “the redheaded stranger” has also had difficulties with the Internal Revenue Service. For reasons unknown, Willie failed to pay taxes on his significant career earnings and in 1990 was assessed $16.7 million in unpaid taxes. Willie released an album called “The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories” that quickly filled his coffers with money. The government also auctioned off some of Willie’s more valuable furnishings and memorabilia which were purchased by friends and fans who returned the items to him.
3. Fashion designer VALENTINO and his business/life partner GIANCARLO GIAMMETTI were fined $39 million by the Italian government for tax evasion. The couple moved from Italy to London in the late 90’s but their Italian couturier continued doing business in Italy, tax-free. Italian law provides that if one-half of an Italian’s income is earned in Italy, although the person may reside outside of Italy, tax must be paid on the Italian earnings. Valentino’s personal extravagance is evident in the documentary “The Last Emperor”.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang