Sumner Redstone is an entertainment business mogul with a majority share ownership of CBS entertainment and Viacom, and through Viacom, BET and Paramount Pictures, all through his majority ownership of his family business, National Amusement, which originally started out in the drive in movie theater business during The Great Depression. In just the last few weeks a case against Mr. Redstone by the IRS presents an oddity in the law, which may make many people shutter. More particularly, the IRS issued a Notice of Deficiency for a taxable event from 1972 – over 40 years later.
The nature of the case revolved around a transfer of shares in National Amusement Corporation in 1972 to separate trusts set up for the grandchildren of the founder, Sumner Redstone’s father Michael Redstone. Sumner set up one trust for his kids while his siblings set up separate trusts for their kids. At the time the transfer of interfamily stock was of a insignificant amount that passing them from personal ownership to a trust did not even require a tax return. One can and should ask about the concept of a statute of limitation.
Apparently, as the case against Mr. Redstone shows, the IRS does not have a statute of limitation for unfiled tax returns. 26 U.S.C. § 6501(c)(1) establishes that when a taxpayer files a fraudulent tax return, (c)(2) otherwise attempts to avoid tax liability, or (c)(3) fails to file a tax return, there is no statute of limitation. Mr. Redstone has an impressive educational pedigree, where he graduated from first in his class from the Boston Latin School and then graduated Harvard in only three years in 1944, which was actually common at the time. After graduation he served as an officer in the United States Army, helping to decode Japanese messages. He attended Georgetown Law School after the war and then received his LL.B. in 1947 from Harvard Law. After working for various governmental departments followed by private practice, Mr. Redstone went to work for the family business, which was booming by then.