February 11, 2021 - Douglas Myser

Billionaire commits massive tax evasion. Given the inequality that is growing in our society and in the tax code, it is unusual and quite disturbing to hear of a multi-billionaire who hatched a plan to commit massive tax evasion. Over the last five years, Robert F. Smith became one of the nation's most prominent billionaire philanthropists. During that time, he put up $20 million for Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. He donated tens of millions more to national parks, breast cancer research, Carnegie Hall and paying the student debts of a Morehouse College Graduating Class. The spring, he pushed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Ivanka Trump to have $10 billion in government coronavirus relief set aside for lenders in low income neighborhoods. Throughout this munificence, though, Smith had a secret: He'd played a role in what federal prosecutors allege was the biggest tax evasion scheme in U.S. history, an effort by his longtime associate, Texas billionaire Robert Brockman, to hide $2 billion from tax authorities in an offshore scheme featuring a computer program called Evidence Eliminator and code names such as "Redfish" and "Snapper".  Smith, whose code name was "Steelhead" according to prosecutors, has admitted to hiding profits in offshore accounts and filing false tax returns for 10 years. He is cooperating with investigators and faces o charges. But his complicity in the alleged tax crimes has stunned the many who had seen a role model in the charismatic 57 year old entrepreneur, often ranked as the wealthiest black person in the United States. Billionaire commits massive tax evasion.

These two sides of Smith--the impressive generosity on one and the admitted tax evasion on the other--may be hard to reconcile. But they are inextricable, according to documents reviewed by the Washington Post, including charity filings with tax authorities and Justice Department court filings. Both aspects stem from a deal Smith and Brockman made 20 years ago, one that joined them together on a venture. Mr. Smith need more than tax resolution, he needs tax court help.