Country music royalty including Billy Ray Cyrus and The Judd's are among a star studded list of of wealthy Tennesseans who are reportedly taking advantage of loopholes in their tax code in order to claim huge breaks on estates and undeveloped land.
The Agricultural, Forest, and Open Space Act of 1976, (commonly referred to as the “Greenbelt Law”) provides for the assessment of agriculture, forest, and open space lands for tax purposes based on present use value rather than on market value, according to Knox County Property Assessor's Office. And Tennessee's super-rich -- from country music stars to former corporate executives -- are reportedly using the law to get big tax breaks, according to an investigation by The Knoxville News Sentinel and The Commercial Appeal.
The 1976 law was meant to help farmers and though it's not being broken exactly, these wealthy residents are "simply bending it, shaping it, looking for a way to squeeze into its provisions," according to Chris Peck, editor of The Commercial Appeal.
Judd manages to save $18,000 a year in county property taxes on her 545-acre, $3.9 million estate in Williamson County , a discount of 81 percent, because she calls her land a timber reserve. Roger Mick, the retired CFO of Nashville-based Hospital Corp. of America, enjoys a 64 percent savings in city and county property taxes.
But Tennessee isn't the only place where the super-rich can take advantage of tax loopholes. Earlier this year, the IRS released a report that found that more 20,000 filers in 2009 with an adjusted gross income above $200,000 didn't owe any taxes that year. The percentage of affluent filers who owed no taxes was five times greater than in 2001. As David Callahan wrote, U.S. tax laws sometime seem to be designed to facilitate tax avoidance by the super wealthy.
Tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the super-rich have also become a hot-button issue on the campaign trail. Many have criticized Republican candidate Mitt Romney's relatively low tax rate. Much of Romney's income -- like that of many wealthy Americans -- comes from investments, which are taxed at a much lower rate than other forms of income.
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Dwayne "Lil Wayne" Carter
Lil Wayne had an IRS lien filed with Miami Dade County in late March 2011. The lien <a href="http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1661259/lil-wayne-tax-lien-irs.jhtml" target="_hplink">noted</a> that Lil Wayne had unpaid income taxes amounting to $3,351,078 for 2008 and $2,258,956 for 2009.
Dent was hit with a $1,160,056 federal tax lien in March 2011. The former Chicago Bears player was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one month prior.
In January 2012, Lindsay Lohan reportedly received notice from the IRS that she owed over $93,000 in unpaid taxes from 2009. According to TMZ, the actress was simply unaware of the issue.
David "Sinbad" Adkins
<a href="http://realestate.aol.com/blog/2010/02/14/feeling-heat-from-irs-sinbad-will-sell-la-home/" target="_hplink">According to AOL Real Estate</a>, Sinbad was said to owe $8.5 million to the IRS in 2010 and another $2.1 million to the state of California that year. Sinbad was named as <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/12/sinbad-taxes-embarrassmen_n_185976.html" target="_hplink">one of the state's biggest tax evaders</a> in 2009.
In 2008, former Met and Yankee Darryl Strawberry <a href="http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2008/02/darryl_strawberry_agrees_to_pa.html" target="_hplink">agreed to pay</a> more than $430,000 in back taxes he owed, plus interest and penaltie, for money he neglected to pay in 1989 and 1990.
Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne
According to the IRS, Ozzy Osbourne and his wife Sharon owed $1.7 million in taxes from 2008 and 2009.
Actor Forest Whitaker <a href="http://www.bvonmoney.com/2011/03/23/forest-whitaker-having-significant-tax-problems/" target="_hplink">was hit</a> with a large tax bill last year, after failing to pay $185,000 he owed to the IRS. The tax collectors in the Los Angeles County Recorder of Deeds cited Whitaker and filed a lien for the balance.
Actor Chris Tucker had a <a href="http://newsone.com/1883935/wow-chris-tucker-now-owes-over-12-million-in-taxes/" target="_hplink">tax lien filed against him in the state of Georgia earlier this year</a> for $592,594.08, plus $11,571,909.26 from the federal government for taxed owed in 2001, 2002 and 2004 through 2006.
"Baywatch" actress Pamela Anderson owed nearly half a million dollars to the IRS in 2010.
In 1974, comedian Richard Pryor was sentenced to 10 days in jail, fined and put on probation after pleading guilty to a charge of willful failure to file an income tax return, according to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/arts/11pryor.html?pagewanted=3&_r=1&ei=5090&en=ea88c61b92de25e6&ex=1291957200" target="_hplink">the <em>New York Times</em></a>.
Singer El DeBarge <a href="http://www.vibe.com/posts/nas-irs-debt-totals-more-3-million" target="_hplink">owed $354,000 in delinquent federal taxes</a> in 2010, according to Vibe.com.
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Davis <a href="http://www.esquire.com/the-side/feature/destroyed-by-the-irs#ixzz1rYjZPHxQ" target="_hplink">owed nearly $7.5 million in back taxes</a> at the time of his death.
"Pan Am" actress Christina Ricci was hit with a federal income tax lien of nearly $180,000 on her 2008 earnings.
In December 2010, actor Wesley Snipes <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20025363-504083.html" target="_hplink">began a three-year prison sentence</a> for failing to file income tax returns in the amount of $7 million.