In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is proposing a massive $375 million cut to education funding and proposing to close four state parks. Meanwhile, Tom Cruise, whose net worth exceeds $250 million, pays Colorado just $400 a year in property taxes for a 248 -acre property outside of Telluride that he purchased for $18 million.
How does he do it? By manipulating a tax break designed to help struggling farmers. The Denver Post reports:
Actors, captains of industry, an Ivy League astrologer, sports figures, politicians… All these are also considered farmers or ranchers for tax purposes in Colorado. They have secured low property taxes through agricultural designations on land they own even though they personally have little or nothing to do with producing food — the reason state legislators originally created a low property-tax rate for the agriculture sector.
Actor Tom Cruise owns five parcels of land on a scenic mesa northwest of Telluride that has become an enclave of high-end vacation homes. Sheep graze around the mansions for brief periods each year, according to the assessor’s office.
Cruise has some company. The tax break is also abused by developers who “put an electrical fence up and put a couple of animals on there just to get the classification.”
The result is a redistribution of wealth from students and teachers of Colorado to Tom Cruise’s lavish lifestyle. The Today show, quoting a source, reports “Tom is really into money. … He has no problem spending it. It makes him feel powerful. He loves to brag about his Porsches, his homes, his planes and his motorcycles.”
A recent exposé in the New Yorker also revealed that members of the Church of Scientology were paid $50 a week to do chores for Cruise, including customizing “a Ford Excursion S.U.V. that Cruise owned, installing features such as handmade eucalyptus panelling.”
Gov. Hickenlooper himself has benefited from the same loophole. He pays just $75 in property taxes on a 225 acre property. The local county assessor calls it “backasswards.”