There was a fascinating article in The Dever Post yesterday—it’s practically just a list—examining how certain extremely wealthy people pay very, very little in Colorado property taxes. Familiar names and faces like Tom Cruise, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Dick Ebersol of NBC and his wife actress Susan St. James and others pay far, far less in property taxes than most home-owning, God-fearing, rank and file tea-bagging Americans do. What’s a close-minded wingnut to make of this? It’s not what Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin want for America is it??? Or is it?
Hey, wait a minute, Brad Reed writes at Crooks & Liars, this could serve as an effective meme for making those amongst us who are totally impervious to “facts” and “reality” (I’m looking at you, teabaggers) understand how the rich often screw the rest of us over. It might even be a way of persuading the un-persuadable that they are actually acting against their own economic self-interests by their politically unsophisticated participation in far-right advocacy groups. From “How we can convince Tea Partiers to raise taxes on rich people”:
So The Denver Post has done us an extremely useful service today by highlighting just one of many ways that rich people in the United States get away with paying practically zero taxes. I think this could be useful because many of the rich people featured in the story happen to be Hollywood celebrities, who are often the bane of our conservative brethren on a great many issues. Let’s take a look:
Actors, captains of industry, an Ivy League astrologer, sports figures, politicians, energy giants, schoolteachers from Pasadena, Calif. All these are also considered farmers or ranchers for tax purposes in Colorado. They have secured low property taxes through agricultural designations on land they own even though they personally have little or nothing to do with producing food — the reason state legislators originally created a low property-tax rate for the agriculture sector.
In some cases, the properties where they have second, third or fourth homes were traditional working ranches before they were sold to the wealthy and became what, in real-estate lingo, are termed “gentleman ranches” or “recreational ranches.”
You can see where this is going, can’t you? And once you get into the gory details, things get really ugly:
Actor Tom Cruise owns five parcels of land on a scenic mesa northwest of Telluride that has become an enclave of high-end vacation homes. Sheep graze around the mansions for brief periods each year, according to the assessor’s office. Cruise pays just more than $400 in taxes for 248 acres for which he paid nearly $18 million between 1994 and 2002. He pays $11,380 in residential property taxes for the land where his $9.7 million home is located.
Yes, this is how poorly our tax systems across the country are designed: Tom Bleeping Cruise can get away with paying $400 a year in taxes for property that’s worth around $18 million, all because he occasionally allows sheep to walk through it.
Want another ugly detail? Check out this one:
David Tresemer, an astrologer and Harvard-educated psychologist, owns 191 acres and four structures that are listed as farm buildings or residences in the foothills west of Boulder where he operates the StarHouse. It is advertised as a spiritual and cultural space for celebrations of the seasons, the lunar cycles and rituals from ancient and indigenous cultures.
He pays $11.48 in taxes for 38 of the vacant acres and $3,699 for the remainder of the land with the buildings.
OK, even if Ma and Pa Tea Party are still Tom Cruise fans, there ain’t no way they’re happy that a Harvard-educated astrologer is paying just over $11 in taxes for 38 vacant acres of land. And remember, these are only two examples that demonstrate how the rich and their accountants have completely gamed the tax code to their advantage. A more thorough audit of other rich people in other states would no doubt unveil countless other horrors.
Hey, have you got time for another one? Sure you do:
Dick Ebersol and Susan Saint James own a 35-acre lot in the upscale West Meadows subdivision near Telluride. They purchased the land for $1.8 million in 1996 and pay $123 in property taxes on it annually because there is hay on it. They also own an $11 million home in the Mountain Village.
How many Fox News-watching slobs would feel good about themselves if they ever saw THAT story discussed on their favorite rightwing Republican propaganda network? It’ll never happen of course, but it’s worth daydreaming about…
Read more: In Colorado, some famous faces, names get ag-land tax breaks, too (The Denver Post)