Alec Baldwin Faces Tax Charges
Actor Alec Baldwin is among hundreds being targeted by New York City for tax evasion. Is it reasonable to have to prove where you live?
Actor Alec Baldwin is among hundreds being targeted by New York City for tax evasion.
Actor Alec Baldwin has joined a list of elite New Yorkers targeted by tax collectors who think they’re fibbing about where they really live to dodge New York City income taxes.
In recent years, auditors have confronted hundreds of super-wealthy New Yorkers over the residency rules – including star Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter. Facing shrinking revenues, the state has ramped up its pursuit of suspected tax dodgers, hiring 189 new auditors and – for the first time – making filers swear under oath on tax forms as to how many days they “spend in New York City.” If it’s more than 183 days and the filer has a residence in the city, the tax bill goes up.
Baldwin, star of NBC’s “30 Rock,” owns a three-bedroom co-op on Central Park West, a house in the Hamptons and a pad near his daughter in Los Angeles. He spends lots of time in the city doing the show, but claims the Hamptons as home base. That made him one of hundreds of people slapped with an audit in 2009.
“The moment you start working regularly [in the city], the city finance people come after you,” Baldwin recently told an audience at City College. Neither Baldwin nor tax officials would discuss his case with the Daily News.
Such audits require taxpayers to assemble an arsenal of documents – credit card receipts, bank, telephone and computer records – to prove where they were on specific days. Auditors grill taxpayers on where their children go to school and where their doctors and clergy are located. They also comb through records looking for parking tickets or rental agreements that may show the filer is fibbing about spending 183 days or fewer in the city.
Paul Caron smells hypocrisy:
Consider what Baldwin wrote in the Huffington Post four years ago in a piece he titled Tax Cuts and the Republican Legacy:
These tax cuts are not only to make Bush’s wealthiest supporters richer, they are intended to hurt less powerful Americans by killing many of the social programs they depend on. That is the legacy of this Republican-controlled Congress. To hurt those who aren’t wealthy enough to write Bush-Cheney a big check. I urge all Americans to keep that in mind during this election cycle. A Republican-controlled Congress is killing important social programs that we all depend on, so that Bush’s friends can avoid paying a reasonable share of their taxes. ….
So, according to the News, Baldwin might be claiming residency in the Hamptons to evade New York City taxes. But four years ago, the “30 Rock” star encouraged people to give generously to Democrats in the midterm elections so that Republicans could be ousted from Congress and taxes raised.
Glenn Reynolds files this under “Taxes Are For The Little People.”
Now, while I think Baldwin is a fine actor, I disagree with his politics and find him to be something of a schmuck in his public appearances. But there’s nothing inherently contradictory in thinking rich people ought to pay high taxes, that the poor should get generous public services funded by said taxes, and yet take legal steps to minimize one’s own tax burden.
Further, nothing has been proven here — the city is merely engaged in a fishing expedition to see if it can shake loose more money. I haven’t the foggiest idea where Baldwin sleeps at night, much less where he gets his teeth cleaned. But it’s completely plausible to me that he shoots 21 or 22 episodes of “30 Rock” a week in Manhattan and spends most weekends and the rest of the year elsewhere. The Hamptons are, after all, in New York state, less than a 2 hour drive away.
Additionally, while reasonable measures are appropriate to deal with tax cheats, it strikes me as ridiculous that someone would be asked to prove — well after the fact — where they were every day of the year by producing receipts. Absent extraordinary probable cause, why would local auditors be entitled to phone and banking records?
As to banking and doctor visits, I’ve long done those sorts of things near my office, on the theory that those establishments are mostly open during hours when I’m working. I routinely “bank” at the ATM in front of my office and my dentist is in Arlington, on my way in to work. But I don’t live in either DC or Arlington.