Speaking of the rodeo, in an explosive article just published in the Miami Herald, Miami-Dade power couple lowers (their own) taxes, raises eyebrows, reporter Patricia Sagastume exhibited killer investigative skills not seen around these here parts since Nadege Green left NMB for greener pastures.
She had me at “Yeehaw!”
Even though I’m still shaking my head that Sagastume referred to Phyllis and Woody Smith as a “power couple,” her article was truly an eye opener.
The reporter observed, “With all those Montana license plates clustered in the driveway, you might reckon there is a cowboy convention at the home of North Miami Beach Councilwoman Phyllis Smith. No, the rodeo has not rolled into town. Smith and her husband have simply hit on an obscure way to avoid paying the taxes that everyone else pays.”
Uh, oh! Phyllis, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!
The Montana Tax Loophole, while not yet illegal in Florida, has been targeted for closure by other states, such as California, Massachusetts and Nebraska. Apparently, Montana is one of four states that have no sales tax whatsoever. Anyone who has ever purchased a new car in Miami-Dade County knows that a 7% sales tax on tens of thousands of dollars is hardly chump change.
In order to take advantage of this loophole, all one has to do is form a Montana Limited Liability Company. Agencies such as CT Corporation, for example, provide services designed to help local companies form foreign (out-of-state) corporations, mainly for the purpose of interstate expansions. While CT Corporation is a legitimate organization performing legitimate services, there are agencies that charge a fee to form “shell” companies in Montana for the sole purpose of taking advantage of its no-sales tax laws. As the Herald noted, “The Montana plate tax avoidance formula is touted on the Internet at sites like rv-dreams.com and mtvehicles.com. They offer help with setting up the LLC and with obscuring the names associated with the company in public records.”
By purchasing her “two king-size Hummers” in the name of a Montana LLC, Phyllis has most likely avoided paying thousands of dollars in sales tax. The price of a new (2010 – the last year they were made) Hummer H2, for example, sold for anywhere between $60,000.00 and $70,000.00. The Florida sales tax bill on just one of her vehicles could have cost Phyllis as much as $4,900.00. As the article states, she has four pricey cars. The reporter also noted that by registering her cars in Montana, Phyllis also saved money by not paying Florida auto insurance rates, which are among the highest in the nation.
The article also mentioned that Phyllis didn’t know anything about her husband’s “businesses in three states,” and that the reporter should ask him herself. However, as Patricia pointed out, “Her husband did not return calls seeking comment. The signs on the side of the Hummers advertise Smith’s business, Central Plumbing W.S. Company, which has a 305 area code. No hint of a branch in Montana. Although Smith says she doesn’t own cars and often catches a ride to city hall with others, her biography does note that she is a member of the Hummer Club, a national organization devoted to the boxy, gas-gulping vehicles.”
Here’s the thing. I’ve been extremely critical of Phyllis Smith in the past. As I’ve also mentioned, my beef with her has always been about her annoying habit of constantly bloviating and hogging the spotlight. I’ve also poked fun at her very special talent of making the most inappropriate comments at the worst possible time.
But, I have also noted that I’m usually in agreement with her voting record on most issues, and that I believed her heart was in the right place. I have always felt that she truly wanted what’s best for the residents of North Miami Beach.
This latest exposé, however, reveals something that does not bode well for Phyllis, or any elected official for that matter. While taking advantage of the Montana tax loophole might not be illegal in the state of Florida, it certainly blurs the ethical line of good governance we should expect – and demand – from someone who is supposed to be serving the public trust.
After all, one of the many duties of a politician is to legislate the tax rates that the rest of us pay. How does Phyllis expect her constituents to feel about paying their taxes when their representative manages to avoid paying her own?
What’s even worse is Phyllis’ claim that she doesn’t drive and “catches a ride to city hall with others.”
OMG! That is so bogus!
Everyone knows Phyllis is a real estate agent who is constantly seen driving around town in one of her screaming yellow vehicles.
In fact, last year she was gifted by one of NMB’s finest with a ticket for a moving violation right in Eastern Shores.
The term, “moving violation,” usually means that the person being cited is behind the wheel of a car that’s in motion.
Phyllis might have bad driving skills, but she’s even worse at lying.
Judging by the some of the comments made by her colleagues to the Herald, they’re not too happy with Phyllis right now. I expect there will be some fireworks at the next council meeting.
The rodeo may not have come to North Miami Beach, but the circus is still in full swing at City Hall.
“Spreading the Wealth”
Screenshot from today’s miamiherald.com‘s front page: