Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wesley Snipes To Go on Ice Again?

ONE OF THE SLEEPER classics of the mid-Nineties was the film Demolition Man. In it, Wesley Snipes (and, through Snipes's character's machinations, Sylvester Stallone) plays a criminal who, after being apprehended in the present day, is cryogenically frozen for decades in a new rehabilitation initiative. Of course, the subliminal retraining that was supposed to make him docile is replaced by a suite of skills that read like a GURPS Black Ops character sheet, and Sly is thawed to deal with the swath of chaos Snipes carves across a pacifist future.

Well, Snipes may have occasion to be put on ice in real life. News today alleged that Our Mister Blade has neglected to pay his not insubstantial taxes for some time. From the Orlando Sentinel:
Snipes, according to the indictment, sent bogus checks worth about $13 million to the IRS for his estimated tax liability. Snipes also attempted to receive, but did not get, tax refunds worth more than $11 million for tax years 1996 and 1997, according to the indictment.
Nobody really likes to pay taxes — though having to shell out a pile on Snipes-level coin would feel like a backhanded compliment to me — but hell, if you're a celebrity, known to pull down seven-figure paychecks, you gotta know the spotlight is going to be on you with greater vigor than on a shlub like me. And Snipes isn't even the first guy to short the Feds like this. The first Survivor winner, Richard Hatch, somehow convinced himself that CBS was covering the tax on his million dollars, an excuse that fell apart when he also ducked tax on a few other goodies and paychecks he picked up after the win. Hatch is now bouncing off the walls of a Federal clink. Will Wesley Snipes be one cell down?

This news comes right after I spent a late Saturday night/early Sunday morning (yes, I lead an exciting weekend life) reading Richard Yancey's riveting memoir, Confessions of a Tax Collector, which details his career as a revenue agent for the IRS. They have a direct mandate: Collect the tax. Whether it be via payment plan, or an auction of the delinquent payer's businesses or homes, Yancey executed the will of the government with increasing zeal in his career, reserving special attention for scam artists and revenue-libertarians who use pettifoggery and Constitutional chop-logic to claim that the income tax system itself is invalid. In the end, few escape, and the author is transformed by his job in alarming ways. The book reads like Brazil via Heart of Darkness and I recommend it strongly. All in all, it tells me that Wesley Snipes doesn't have a chance in hell of winning.

Why do people think they are immune to the law? Especially revenue laws, at a time when every penny that moves through the system can be followed as it goes or traced? Even the most Byzantine money-laundering schemes are eventually foiled, or at least suspected of existing even as their walls are slowly scaled by ever-more sophisticated forensic accountants and computer wizards. Joe Louis coined it, Wez echoed it, and I believe it: You can run, but you can't hide. Though I'm not saying I agree with every program my revenue funds, I do know it's coming out of that paycheck or some Agent Smith–looking motherfucker is gonna drag my ass into a fluorescent-lit sweatbox, stretch on a rubber glove, and go hunting up and down the length of my fiscal colon. And if I really wanted attention to that area, hell, there's places in the West Village'll help a man out for a few bux and a peck on the cheek.

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