Monday, June 26, 2006

Immigration Debate Gets Serious at New England Republican

Things are getting pretty ugly over at New England Republican, all as a result of some high-temperature rhetorical bomb-throwing over immigration reform.

Some time ago, one of NER's regular posters, Optimistic Patriot, initiated a series of posts on the immigration reform issue. As his name might suggest, OP is a fervent adherent to the "hard right" position that brooks no dissent over the demand that all illiegals be sent packing.

Equally as zealous on the opposite side of the issue, one "docweasel" posted his own high-octane opinions. Well, the comments began to get pretty nasty between OP and docweasel, and then, in his own post, docweasel felt compelled to reference the Nuremberg Laws and a commenter's reference to rounding up non-citizens. He apologized for his role in the boiling rhetoric, but posted on the issue nonetheless. Not to be outdone, OP resumed his posting on the issue the same day with two posts covering English Only and Identity Theft.

Concerned that his blog was devolving into a KOS-like food fight, NER's owner issued a demand that there be no further posting on immigration until things cooled down a bit.

That request was honored for less than one day, when OP posted each day thereafter. His posts were generally measured and mature, discussing the latest developments and opinions on the issue as it was before Congress.
Doc didn't like this. He carped that OP was violating NER's "gag order" and proceeded to bash OP for his style. Doc was there to comment on OP's posts, criticizing OP for his snideness, snarkiness -- generally being a total ass. OP took it in stride, for the time.

Then came docweasel's post, "Keep America Stupid -- Seal the Borders!" There he drew parallels between OP's ilk and the Know Nothing Party of the 1800's and suggested that by keeping out illegal immigrants were were "dumbing down" America. In the comments, he responded by claiming that OP and others had astounding "venom" and "hatred" for immigrants (all imimigrants, not just illegals).

OP next posted the day the Senate killed the immigration bill, and the comment section looked like the crowd at an Ireland-England World Cup Soccer match. Doc raised the "pure venom and hate" line again, calling the others un-Christian and un-American and continued with his asinine antics, finally (one would hope) signing off with the farewell line, "Glad to be shed of you and the New England Racist. "

Would that it were true. Doc could not resist his own manic compulsions and "went postal" with this crap:

"You can tell a lot about people by the company they keep and whose side they espouse. Let’s take a look at the face of the anti-immigration crowd in America today, and some of their statements.

The leaders and main cheerleaders and angry white people behind the anti-immigration furor are out and out admitted bigots, and their positions and issues are nearly indistinguishable from the “main-stream” Republican position."

He mentions the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis and White Supremacists. Classy!

OP responded to this in a restrained and measure fashion, simply saying that the anti-immigration adherents wouldn't be intimidated by such name calling. Originally, the headline for the post was "Docweasel's Intimidation Tactics..." and I wish NER had kept it that way.

But doc took vehement exception to having his name actually appear in the headline -- suggesting in the comments that some sort of protocol or rule was violated, resulting in "massive malfeasance and misuse of your (posting) privilege." Truly off-the-wall stuff. It was nutty enough that NER decided he'd better take doc's name out of the headline after all.

Why do I torture you with all of this?

Because docweasel has done something very very serious since. Doc has threatened to sue NER if his "copyrighted material" isn't taken down immediately, and he has sent a notice to NER's ISP under the DMCA alleging that NER is using copyrighted material without permission. The material in question? The new masthead and some of the style code that docweasel supplied to NER at the same time he was brought on to become a contributor to the blog. It would appear that at the time, doc was providing the work product to NER either as a gift or as a result of his increasing involvement in the blog's work product. Now he says that "all agreements were strictly informal. Therefore, since there is no agreement, I can rescind and remove MY work at any time."

One hopes that Doc receives some instruction in basic contract law soon.

I had this guy pegged as a loon the moment he came on board, when he totally flipped out that I was correcting his atrocious and serial misspellings. Seems I should have done that in private emails instead of showing him up in the comments. He quit once, then came back. When he returned, I decided that I had better things to do.

Here's hoping that NER sticks to its guns and gives docweasel the spanking he richly deserves.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Christy Mihos- Avoider or Evader?

Well the big political news here recently is that Christy Mihos, self-described friend of the taxpayer, avoided the payment of some $23,000 in Massachusetts sales tax by having a corporation formed in Rhode Island for the singular purpose of purchasing his motor yacht in that state (which has no sales tax on same), and keeping the boat berthed there for six months before bringing it to his private compound at Great Island in Yarmouth:

"Mihos appears to have taken advantage of a provision that says a boat owner may be exempt from the Massachusetts sales tax if the boat remains out of state for the first six months after the sale. Mihos said the boat remained in Rhode Island for more than six months after he purchased it in January 1999. He said he then brought it to his home in the gated community where he lives on Great Island, across Hyannis Harbor from the Kennedy compound."

Mihos supporters and sympathizers around the Massachusetts blogosphere have rallied to his defense, saying that he is merely using the legal exemptionsof the tax laws to lawfully avoid the payment of a sales tax. But is that what he has done?

The Globe story references "a provision [of Massachusetts law, presumably] that says a boat owner may be exempt from the Massachusetts sales tax if the boat remains out of state for the first six months after the sale." There is no such provision of law. Let's examine:

Chapter 64I governs the imposition of the "use tax" imposed upon personal property located in the Commonwealth.

Chapter 64I Section 3 states that "Every person storing, using or otherwise consuming in the commonwealth tangible personal property or services purchased from a vendor shall be liable for the tax imposed by this chapter."

Chapter 64I section 8 states as follows:

"(f) It shall be presumed that tangible personal property shipped or brought to the commonwealth by the purchaser was purchased from a retailer for storage, use or other consumption in the commonwealth, provided that such property was shipped or brought into the commonwealth within six months after its purchase."

This is the provision of law upon which Mihos (and presumably like-minded tax-avoiders) rely -- but it is hardly an "exemption" that entitles them to avoid the tax. The language states simply that the property is presumed to be purchased for use in the Commonwealth (hence subject to the tax) if it was brought into the state within six months. All that is accomplished by keeping the property out-of-state for six months is the avoidance of the presumption that the property is taxable. It may indeed still be taxable, and there is no regulation, tax advisory or letter ruling issued by the Department of Revenue that says otherwise.

830 CMR 64H.6.7 (Out-of-State Sales and Deliveries) provides the following guidance:

(b) Use Tax.
3. Property stored in Massachusetts. If property purchased outside Massachusetts is brought into Massachusetts the use tax will apply, unless the property was brought here solely to be kept or retained for the purposes of subsequent transportation outside Massachusetts. M.G.L. c. 64I, s. 1.

In 1986, the Massachusett Supreme Judicial Court issued the controlling decision in Towle v. Commissioner of Rev., 397 Mass. 599 (1986). The facts in that case are identical to Mihos', but for the period of time the taxpayer there waited before moving the boat into Masachusetts waters. The SJC's decision states as follows:

"The taxpayer did not demonstrate any right to an exemption from the use tax, nor did he overcome the effect of the statutory presumption making the use tax applicable to property brought into Massachusetts within six months of purchase. G.L. c. 64I, § 8( f). Evidence before the board indicated that the taxpayer purchased the sailboat in Connecticut and did not pay sales tax to any jurisdiction. Within the first two months of purchasing the sailboat, the taxpayer brought the sailboat into Massachusetts and proceeded to store or use the sailboat within Massachusetts for the next several months. The taxpayer's argument that he is a nonresident and that he did not use the sailboat exclusively, or even primarily, in Massachusetts does not rebut the statutory presumption that the sailboat is subject to the use tax. The use tax statute makes no exception for nonresidents and does not exempt property not used or stored primarily or exclusively in Massachusetts. Presumably, the commissioner was not persuaded by the taxpayer's evidence that, in bringing the sailboat into Massachusetts, his intention was to transport the sailboat outside Massachusetts at a future date “for use thereafter solely outside the commonwealth.” During the time the sailboat was stored in Massachusetts, the taxpayer used the sailboat in the Commonwealth and did not take any action indicative of an intent to transport the sailboat elsewhere for use solely outside the Commonwealth. In fact, the taxpayer moved the sailboat outside the Commonwealth only after the use tax was assessed on the sailboat. Therefore, the taxpayer's arguments based on the statute fail." (emphasis supplied)

Clearly, the SJC decision rests strongly on the fact that the taxpayer brought the boat into Massachusetts two months after purchase. But it notes that the 6 month period is a "statutory rpesumption," nothing more or less.

The operative question in examining whether the use tax applies to the property is what the taxpayer's purpose was in bring the property into Massachusetts. Since Mihos is not a resident of Rhode Island, owns a (spectacular) home on Great Island on the Cape, uses West Yarmouth as the yacht's "hailing port" on its Coast Guard registration, and in fact keeps the boat at his home during the summer months, it is more than fair to assume that his intention in bringing the boat to Massachusetts was to use it here, primarily.

If I were the Commissioner of Revenue here, I would notify Mihos that the tax was due, and make him pay the tax, interest and penalties -- which is the prerequisite to him being entitled to challenge the application of the use tax and seek an abatement.

As Will Rogers said, "The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. Even when you make a tax form out on the level, you don't know when it's through if you are a crook or a martyr. "

Rogers' quote may apply to Mihos, it may not. I have a hard time believing, however, that a fair-minded man exercising intellectual honesty would legitimately conclude that his scheme passed the smell test.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?