Tax Analysts Blog

The Devil Wears Prada, But Does Her Boyfriend Pay Taxes?

Posted on Feb 1, 2013

Cinema aficionados will remember that characters from the popular 2006 film, The Devil Wears Prada, were inspired by actual people. Meryl Streep's portrayal of a sassy fashionista was based on Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. Wintour is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in England. She holds the ceremonial title of O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire), which is a few steps down from a knighthood but still darn impressive.

Wintour could soon be returning to England in an altogether different capacity. Rumors have it she's on President Obama's short list to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Court of Saint James. Some media reports have her as the leading candidate. The current ambassador, Louis Susman, has announced he will be stepping down.

This is no ordinary diplomatic post. Over the history of our republic, some fairly big names have served as U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. The group includes five men who themselves went on to become president (John Adams, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, and James Buchanan), not to mention Andrew Mellon, Averell Harriman, and J.F.K.'s father. Don't let that intimidate you, Anna. I bet none of those guys looked good in a chin-length pageboy and dark sunglasses.

Wintour is politically connected. During the last presidential campaign she was among Obama's biggest financial contributors. Last February she and actress Scarlett Johannson co-hosted a $15,000-per-plate fundraiser for Obama in New York City. The gathering was called "Runway to Win" (get it?) and brought in half-a-million bucks for the Obama campaign. Generosity like that tends to merit the odd favor in return.

But there's a snag. It recently came to light that Wintour's long-time boyfriend, J. Shelby Bryan, reportedly owes the IRS more than $1.2 million in unpaid income taxes. That's what we call bad timing. Bryan is from Texas and reportedly owes unpaid property taxes in Harris County near Houston. He is also politically connected and was a major fundraiser for President Clinton back in the 1990s.

Should Bryan's alleged noncompliance with the tax code constitute an irreparable blow against Wintour's consideration? Gosh, I hope not. His taxes aren't her taxes, and there's not a joint return problem. Readers of Tax Notes International are well aware of the innocent spouse doctrine. Shouldn't there be an innocent girlfriend doctrine as well? It's only fair. And besides, something tells me that if Anna doesn't get the nod the post will probably go to another boring, old, white dude. Where's the entertainment value in that?

So, Anna, if things do work out for you as Ambassador please remember those less prominent editors-in-chief ... c'est moi ... who publicly supported your appointment. Perhaps you could host another soiree and introduce me to ScarJo. In return I would gladly extend you a complementary two-week trial to Worldwide Tax Daily . It could come in handy since you might encounter some pesky crossborder tax issues while living overseas. FATCA and FBAR come to mind, for starters.

We know that politics is a nasty business. Half of Capitol Hill is looking for any reason to make Obama's life difficult. The outcome here is wait-and-see. In the meantime, we'll note that the acronym O.B.E. has a secondary meaning: Overtaken By Events.

Read Comments (2)

von gneisenauFeb 1, 2013

"boring, old, white dude"

those who live in glass houses... please keep a lid on your self-hate.

is it income or property taxes?

Christopher BerginFeb 1, 2013

Great post! I laughed out loud. But, then, I have a sense of humor.

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