Steve Martin, tax attorney

I’m almost certain that everyone reading this remembers this great old-time Steve Martin Bit:

You can be a millionaire–and never pay taxes! You can be a millionaire–and never pay taxes! You say, “Steve… how can I be a millionaire, and never pay taxes?” First, get a million dollars. Now, you say, “Steve, what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, ‘You, have never paid taxes’?” Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: “I forgot!” How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don’t say “I forgot”? Let’s say you’re on trial for armed robbery. You say to the judge, “I forgot armed robbery was illegal.” Let’s suppose he says back to you, “You have committed a foul crime. you have stolen hundreds and thousands of dollars from people at random, and you say, ‘I forgot’?” Two simple words: Excuuuuuse me!!”

Well, after all these years, someone has finally put this technique to the test–but it’s not working out too well for Dennis Kozlowski, the former chief of Tyco International. Saying “I forgot” to declare a $25M bonus he received in 1999 isn’t helping his case any:

”I just was not thinking when I signed my tax return that I had a $25 million loan forgiveness,” he said. ”Year in and year out at Tyco, my tax returns for the most part had been correct. I didn’t pick up on it.”

Fascinating! I’m midway through Conspiracy of Fools, a great book on the Enron debacle, so more on corporate “mal-feance” to come!

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