A few weeks ago, Wesley Snipes, a former action star, was sentenced to 3 years in prison for dodging nearly $15 million dollars in taxes and falsely applying for tax refunds. He was accused of “brazen defiance” of tax laws. Although there were many mistakes made, I wanted to highlight that lack of financial integrity was a major contributor to Mr. Snipes downfall.
I have personally witnessed so many great men and women fall because of this character flaw. For example, I recall blatant fraud by James McAlister, former director of UNC hospital pharmacy. Then, there are the real high profile cases of financial fraud such as Martha Stewart, Jimmy Swaggart, Enron, and the late hotel billionaire Leona Hemsley.
Greed is so terrible; it destroys lives. Although no one is thrilled about working the first three to four months every year for the taxman, that is not justification for breaking the law. There is nothing wrong with legally reducing your tax burden, but as you strive for wealth, you must ask yourself if lack of financial integrity is the true motivator behind your financial decisions. If so, even the most brilliant tax advisers and crafty lawyers may not be able to save you.