Friday, September 27, 2002

Boxer Mike Tyson wants tax money back

He says Ohio not his home, seeks $5.8 million

By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS - Boxer Mike Tyson argued Thursday that he should receive a $5.8 million income tax refund because he only occasionally stayed at his estate in northeast Ohio, and, therefore, wasn't an Ohio resident required to pay income taxes.

        “I didn't want to live in Ohio,” Mr. Tyson testified before an Ohio Board of Tax Appeals examiner. “I had a great time here. People in Cleveland are great. It's a great state, but I never intended to live here.”

        He said that Southington, the town about 40 miles southeast of Cleveland where he once owned a 62-acre estate, was “primitive enjoyment” for a “big-city guy” such as himself.

        The tax board is expected to decide next year whether the former heavyweight champion should have paid the taxes in 1995 and 1996. The decision could be appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

        Mr. Tyson, whose federal income tax forms show incomes of $29 million in 1995 and $56 million in 1996, requested a refund in December but was turned down by Tax Commissioner Thomas Zaino.

        “I'm sure you guys know that I have a lot of money, that I'm not broke, you know?,” Mr. Tyson testified. “I'm embarrassed being here fighting over this, but this is my money, and I'm tired of you guys stealing my money.”

        The state says a paper trail proves Mr. Tyson was an Ohio resident because he lived in the state for at least 120 days each of those two years. Moreover, the state says, Mr. Tyson was ordered to serve his probation in Ohio after his March 25, 1995, release from an Indiana prison, where he served three years for rape.

        Mr. Tyson, 36, became the youngest heavyweight champion when he won the title in 1986 at age 20. He dominated the heavyweight ranks for the rest of the decade before losing in 1990 on a 10th-round knockout to James “Buster” Douglas of Columbus in one of the sport's biggest upsets.

        Mr. Tyson regained the championship following his prison term. He was disqualified from a bout in 1997 for biting Evander Holyfield's ear and lost a bid to get the title back in June when he was beaten by Lennox Lewis.

        Mr. Tyson, wearing a blue suit and tie and a small bandage over his right eyebrow, arrived 15 minutes late for Thursday's hearing with an entourage, including a bodyguard.

        While on the stand, he smiled frequently and mostly was polite but sometimes grew agitated. He mumbled answers to some questions but at times strayed into lengthy stories. He also yawned often but then quickly apologized.

        He referred to the examiner, Thomas Wang, as “sir” and “your honor.”

        At a pause in questioning, Mr. Tyson mouthed “I love you” to a woman who had accompanied him to the hearing.

        At one point, Assistant Attorney General Robert Maier asked Mr. Tyson: “When did you become aware that income taxes had been paid to the state of Ohio for '95 and '96?”

        Mr. Tyson responded: “I found this out around four years ago. I had some horrible people working for me - it's a story again.

        “Can I do the story or no?” Mr. Tyson, visibly exasperated, asked Mr. Wang.

        Mr. Wang allowed him to continue.

        Mr. Tyson said he stayed at the Ohio home periodically and traveled often to New York, Chicago and Washington. He said his primary residence was in Las Vegas, where he frequently trained for fights. Nevada does not have an income tax.

        Mr. Tyson said he learned from one of his attorneys in 1998 that he had paid Ohio income taxes in 1995 and 1996.

        He testified that the signatures on the tax forms weren't his. However, when questioned, he said his advisers might have filed the returns on his behalf but without his permission, and he might have unknowingly signed the forms.

        Mr. Tyson also identified signatures on amended tax returns as his own.

        “I don't know anything about taxes, I don't know anything about this stuff now,” he said. “These guys were supposed to be my friends. I was involved with them. They told me to sign this and whatever. I would have done anything they asked. That's why I'm in this situation.”


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