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Did McInnis Avoid Taxes on $112,500 of Hasan Water Money?

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Here's a nagging detail about Scott McInnis' Hasan fellowship that's slipped through the cracks in the media.

Why did McInnis run $112,500 of his $300,000 payment from the Hasan Family Foundation through a company called "Scott McInnis Invest 2 LLC," which lists Lori McInnis, Scott's wife, as the registered agent?

McInnis was paid $150,000 in 2005, and IRS records from the foundation show the money was paid to "Scott McInnis."

McInnis was paid $37,500 in 2007, and foundation records show his check was again paid to "Scott McInnis." (This was for work in 2006.)

But sandwiched between those two outlays was a payment in 2006 for $112,500 to "Scott McInnis Invest 2 LLC."

There could easily be nothing illegal about McInnis reporting $112,500 of the Hasan income through his wife's corporation. Even if the purpose of "Scott McInnis Invest 2 LLC" had nothing to do with freelance writing, speaking, or related activities, the company could take the Hasan money as income, I'm told by accountants, though in other states, corporate income apparently has to be related to the purpose of the corporation. (I can't figure out what "Scott McInnis Invest 2 LLC" did or who owned it until it was dissolved in July of 2006. But the Colorado Secretary of State's website lists Lori McInnis as the "registered agent.")

But if the corporation had multiple owners, and McInnis has said that his business activities involved family members and others, there could be tax avoidance issues.

In other words, the income from McInnis' writing activities may have been spread to his corporate co-owners, like perhaps his children, who had lower tax brackets than McInnis, and thus less tax was paid. This might have sweetened the "sweet" deal a bit.

In a June 16 posting on the Nonprofit Quarterly blog, Rick Cohen, who's a former director of the Naional Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, wrote: "It's pretty rare, we think, that foundation or academic fellows are paid as LLC's rather than individuals." Cohen pointed out that the Hasan Foundation's only other fellow, "a Professor Albar Ahmad, was paid directly rather than as a corporation, albeit for only $30,000."

Again, there's obviously no proof McInnis did anything illegal or unethical here, but we don't know enough yet to be sure. And it looks strange enough that reporters should ask him about it.

UPDATE: Asked today by the Colorado Independent why he asked the Hasan Foundation to pay him through Invest 2 LLC, McInnis said, "There is no reason."