October 2015

 

Owning part of the moon may seem like a funny idea at first, but seemingly possible a little later when you come to learn about the corporations currently selling property on it. So, now that there are companies purportedly exclusively dealing with outer space land, is it actually possible to buy land on the moon? Can you promise your lover the moon and actually buy it?

As controversial as it may sound, the answer is No. You can buy a piece of paper that supposedly makes you a moon landowner, but you can never actually legally own the land. Here’s why:

Outer Space Treaty

The Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in The Exploration and Use of Outer Space was signed in 1967 to regulate outer space activities of all countries. Two of its articles, namely IV and II, explicitly address the issue of owning land on the moon and other celestial planets. They respectively state:

“Parties to the treaty shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, whether such activities are carried on by governmental agencies or by non-governmental entities”

“Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

Strangely enough, this UN treaty was not inclusive of individual claim of ownership. Some lawyers (yeah, as strange as it may seem, there are space lawyers) have consequently argued that individuals who are not representing any nation may go ahead to claim property ownership on the moon and subsequently reserve the rights to sell it. Additionally, as they further claim, by the virtue of not being a member of the United Nations, an individual or corporate can exclude himself/herself from the treaty.

So, doesn’t that seem to settle it? Fortunately or unfortunately, the answer is still No. There are still other elements to consider on celestial property buying.

Moon and Space Deeds Legalities

Indeed, celestial property agencies have created a lot of fuss about buying property on the moon. The Lunar Embassy for instance, claimed that they sell more than 200 acres of land on a regular basis. According to their boss Dennis Hope, the company has supplied more than 5.7 million deeds at a rate of about 2.2 properties per individual across the galaxy. Going by their rate of $20-$25 per acre, that totals to about $6-$12 billion worth of celestial land — with owners only getting a piece of paper as proof of ownership

Unfortunately for buyers, that deed doesn’t actually make you a legal moon-land property owner- since the seller cannot prove how he/she came legally into possession of the property to gain the right to legally transfer it to you. Lunar Embassy claimed to have gained possession in 1980, but so did a host of other individuals, including a five Geneva citizens in 1966, Oklahoma City in 1965, and a Chilean poet in 1954.

Basically, lunar property sellers have a lot of animus, with no corpus. They may claim to own the moon, but they can’t exhibit any form of property control like demarcation, flags, or any land appropriation type — which is a critical property ownership requirement.

 

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Considered some of the highest paid individuals in the world, sports personalities attract a lot of attention, including the taxman’s. No revenue body would want to miss out on the huge tax potentials most of these players have- and that consequently attracts a lot of scrutiny, which in some cases, ends badly for sports personalities who fail to accurately file their returns.

Conventional wisdom would hold that none of these personalities are expected to evade taxes or fail to correctly fail their returns. After all, their huge pays would afford them reputable accountants on retainer to update their tax records, and still retain significantly high sums of money after tax deductibles.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, this doesn’t always apply. There are many sports celebrities not in good standing with the taxman, who walk around with the sniper tax rifle aimed at them. A significant number of them have attracted massive fines and jail terms, and others have spent hours in court rooms answering tax evasion charges. Here are the details on the top sports personalities accused of tax evasion:

Bill Whittington

In 1986, Bill Whittington, an American Racing Driver, was arrested and charged for conspiracy to smuggle narcotics and tax evasion. In a case that attracted a lot of public attention, Bill pleaded guilty hoping for leniency from the court. The court was lenient alright, and it handed him a 15 years jail sentence, which he was fortunate not to serve to completion. He was later released after 4 years of incarceration.

Boris Becker

Boris Becker, the former world’s number one tennis player, suffered a big blow in 2002 when he was charged for failing to pay taxes between 1991 and 2002, after claiming to live in the tax haven Monaco while he was actually living in Munich. After pleading guilty, he was forced to pay a tax amount of $3M plus accrued interest, fined half a million dollars, and put in probation for 2 years for tax evasion.

Garth Leroux

Garth Leroux, a former South African cricketer, was charged in 2006 for 48 tax related irregularities. The hearing, which strung for 2 years, found him guilty and handed him and 4 year jail sentence. The conviction was ultimately toppled in 2010, subsequently clearing him of all charges and releasing him from jail.

Manny Pacquiao

Despite being Philippines’ number one taxpayer, Manny Pacquiao currently faces charges on tax evasion between 2008 and 2009, amounting to $51 million. In his defense, Manny claims to have paid the taxes in the United States and should be exempted from double taxation, considering the existing tax treaty between the two countries. His country’s revenue bureau however, insists that he’s yet to prove payment of his tax dues through the IRS.

Lionel Messi

After being accused of filing falsified returns between 2007 and 2009, Lionel Messi’s charges were dropped by Spanish Authorities. His father however, wasn’t that lucky, and will stand trial for a tax fraud of 4 million pesos.

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Get out your pitchforks – BP will be able write off $15.3 billion of the $20.8 billion settlement from the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that ruined the beaches, wetlands, and estuaries in the area thanks to their negligence. The deduction is 74% of the penalty and clean-up money the government ordered them to pay.

The $5.5 billion difference not claimed by BP as a tax deduction is a Clean Water Act Penalty. Under IRS code, penalties are not tax deductible but are often left to interpretation, allowing creative accountants ways to write them off. But the Department of Justice was explicit with BP that the Clean Water Act Penalty was not deductible or BP would have probably written that amount off as well.

The announcement was made by the US Department of Justice from an out-of-court settlement with BP. The charges related to the Gulf oil spill will allow BP to write off $15.3 billion of the total payment as a tax deduction for the “cost of doing business” meaning BP can write off the natural resource damages payments, restoration, and reimbursement of government costs.

The $15.3 billion dollar tax deduction is different from a tax credit. The deduction will basically reduce taxable income and taxes they’ll have to pay for 2015. That’s about a $5 billion tax savings that pretty much eliminates the expense of ruining the Gulf with their negligence. And the write-off almost completely offsets the cost of the $5.5 billion non-deductible penalty portion.

The watchdog group US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) spoke out against the Department of Justice’s settlement with BP. In a statement: “BP was found to be grossly negligent in the Deepwater Horizon case, and yet the vast majority of what they are paying to make up for their gross negligence is legally considered just business as usual under the tax code unless the DOJ explicitly prohibits a write-off,” said Michelle Surka of US PIRG. “This not only sends the wrong message, but it also hurts taxpayers by forcing us to shoulder the burden of BP’s tax windfall in the form of higher taxes, cuts to public programs, and more national debt.”

The US Department of Justice has the authority to decide on what portions of a claim can be tax deductible, as it did with the criminal settlement with BP over its role in the deaths of 11 workers who died when the oil rig exploded. The Department of Justice specified that the $4 billion criminal settlement was not tax-deductible. But the Department allowed BP to write off another $32 billion in cleanup expenses.

The US PIRG and other groups call for an end to tax-deductible expenses due to negligence or criminal acts.

“Being explicit about denying deductions for the Clean Water Act penalty is certainly a step in the right direction, but it’s a small one considering that the remaining $15.3 billion is wide open for deductions,” said Ms. Surka. “The Department of Justice should go further and make sure that the entirety of the settlement is non-deductible, regardless of how the money is spent.”

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