by Larry Smith
“We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” — Leona Helmsley
Leona Helmsley was the billionaire owner of the Empire State building and other lucrative real estate in New York City. But she is best remembered today for her efforts to evade taxes.
When she was convicted of federal income tax evasion and other crimes in 1989, a former housekeeper testified she had heard Helmsley say: "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes", a saying that became notorious.
Known as the Queen of Mean in her day, Hemsley served only 18 months in prison due to health concerns, but she spent the rest of her life in isolation. After her death in 2007, most of her huge fortune went to a charitable trust.
In 2009, former US senator Tom Daschle was appointed to a key cabinet post in the new Obama administration. But he withdrew when it became known that he owed more than $100,000 in back taxes, which he subsequently paid with interest.
According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Daschle recognized that "you can't set an example of responsibility but accept a different standard."
Contrast what happened to these high profile cheats in the US (and there are many other examples) with what has happened in the Bahamas recently as the government seeks to implement tax reform.