Alec Baldwin, Tax Hypocrite

Back in 2006, actor (and possibly soon to be candidate for public office) Alec Baldwin was bemoaning the Bush tax cuts and their effect, in particular, on funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.  Republicans, you see, are not just wrongheaded on taxes.  According to Baldwin, they are just plain evil and corrupt:

These tax cuts are not only to make Bush’s wealthiest supporters richer, they are intended to hurt less powerful Americans by killing many of the social programs they depend on. That is the legacy of this Republican-controlled Congress. To hurt those who aren’t wealthy enough to write Bush-Cheney a big check. I urge all Americans to keep that in mind during this election cycle. A Republican-controlled Congress is killing important social programs that we all depend on, so that Bush’s friends can avoid paying a reasonable share of their taxes.

How quickly things change.  Fast forward to 2009, and Baldwin discovers the power of tax dis-incentives when it comes to an industry he happens to care about:

We’re constantly told that taxes don’t matter to business and investors, but listen to that noted supply-side economist, Alec Baldwin. The actor recently rebuked New York Governor David Paterson for threatening to try to help close the state’s $7 billion budget deficit by canceling a 35% tax credit for films shot in the Big Apple.

“I’m telling you right now,” Mr. Baldwin declared, “if these tax breaks are not reinstated into the budget, film production in this town is going to collapse, and television is going to collapse and it’s all going to go to California.”

Baldwin’s show, 30 Rock, is, of course filmed in Manhattan.  And here I thought is was the basest form of corruption for one to avoid paying a reasonable share of their taxes. 

Now let’s journey on to the present.  Baldwin is not only a partisan hypocrite, but may be a tax cheat as well:

Facing shrinking revenues, the state has ramped up its pursuit of suspected tax dodgers, hiring 189 new auditors and – for the first time – making filers swear under oath on tax forms as to how many days they “spend in New York City.”

If it’s more than 183 days and the filer has a residence in the city, the tax bill goes up.

Baldwin, star of NBC’s “30 Rock,” owns a three-bedroom co-op on Central Park West, a house in the Hamptons and a pad near his daughter in Los Angeles.

He spends lots of time in the city doing the show, but claims the Hamptons as home base. That made him one of hundreds of people slapped with an audit in 2009.

“The moment you start working regularly [in the city], the city finance people come after you,” Baldwin recently told an audience at City College.

At the very least, it appears that Baldwin is declaring his residence to be a location that also helps minimizes his tax burden.  I can’t fault him for that, since I think taxes are too high and tax avoidance — within the law — is just fine. (Although I think the tax structure should be vastly simpler, with lower rates, and should allow for far fewer avoidance strategies.)

What I do fault Baldwin for is hypocrisy.  If he thinks people should be taxed at high rates to support social programs he likes, such as the NEA, then Baldwin should not be trying to minimize his taxes.  He should refuse all deductions or incentives or other ways one can legally reduce their tax burden, and pay up.  Hell, maybe he should make a contribution above his tax bill.

But Baldwin definitely should not lecture about how awful others are in seeking to minimize the tax burden on all of us, while working to minimize the taxes he personally must pay.

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Published in: on January 24, 2011 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment  

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