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Beanie Baby creator faces prison in tax scheme

Massachutes residents may be interested in the latest developments in the government's tax evasion case against the billionaire creator of Beanie Baby plush toys. The 69-year-old toy designer pleaded guilty on Oct. 2 to evading approximately $5.5 million in taxes by using undisclosed Swiss bank accounts. In a Dec. 31 filing, his lawyers asked that the accused be sentenced to probation and community service instead of jail.

The billionaire's alleged tax evasion was uncovered during a tax evasion crackdown by U.S. tax officials. His name was on a list that was turned over by UBS AG to the Justice Department as part of a February 2009 deal. As part of that deal, UBS turned over names and account data for 285 clients, paid $780 million in fees and confessed to fostering tax evasion.

As part of his plea, the accused confessed to under-reporting his income by more than $24 million from 1999 to 2007. His attorneys said he has filed correct tax returns every year since 2008. His attorneys also indicated that he is very much a financial novice despite his success and significant wealth. They said he has already agreed to repay the back taxes and fees and is committed to serving probation and performing community service. They also pointed out to the court that he has paid more than one billion dollars in lifetime taxes and makes significant charitable contributions.

It's legal to employ tax-management strategies. However, sometimes those strategies are too aggressive and transition into illegal tax-evasive schemes. Individuals who are convicted of tax evasion could face fines, probation and prison time. Judges and tax officials do sometimes consider an individual's past record and willingness to repay the back taxes when determining the severity of the sentence. A tax attorney could advocate on behalf of an accused individual in trial and in sentencing hearings.

Source: Bloomberg News, "Beanie Baby Billionaire Seeks to Avoid Jail for Tax Crime", David Voreacos, January 02, 2014

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