April 20, 2012
Terrence Revere recently discovered that he is part of a notorious group that includes hip-hop star Damon Dash and financial institutions American Express and Cantor Fitzgerald. As of Friday, the eclectic bunch had been identified as delinquents on New York's tax department website, which publishes a list of the top individual and corporate tax evaders, by amount owed. ...
Welcome to cyber-shaming, the public listing of individuals and companies who don't pay their taxes. The practice is gaining popularity as states struggle to find revenue in a weak economy. New York, New Jersey, Nebraska and Oklahoma in the past three years have joined the ranks of the roughly 30 states that publish "shame lists." The phenomenon gained ground globally in January when Greece, in severe financial distress, decided to publish its list of top tax delinquents.
On Friday morning, California published a new version of its list of those delinquent in paying income tax, the first since its legislature passed a law in October requiring the state to post the names of the 500 owing the most. California's previous list had only 250 names. This listing now includes the names of corporate officers of any businesses listed. Soon, the state will also be able to revoke the driver's and occupational licenses of those listed, according to Denise Azimi, a spokeswoman for the state's Franchise Tax Board. Included on California's list is actress Pamela Anderson who said she is working with the state to pay back the money. ...
The lists don't apply to companies that employ aggressive tax strategies to reduce their bills or that fight audits in court, said Joshua Blank, a professor of tax law at New York University who has written an article on the efficacy of public shaming. They also don't include anyone in bankruptcy or working with the state to try to settle a case through a payment plan.
Compared with other measures, like raising taxes, cyber-shaming has proved a relatively noncontroversial way for strapped states to raise money. California collected $27.9 million as a result of its list last year.
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