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Fri, Jan 30, 2004

A Taxing Problem For MN Pilots

Ninth Pilot Charged In Minnesota

ANN would like to ask the state of Minnesota one question: What's your beef with airline pilots?

While tax evasion is a serious offense, some are wondering why the state has chosen to publicly humiliate a select group of offenders: airline pilots? Why not do the same for other citizens following the same path of wrong-doing?

On Tuesday, Washington County (MN) charged airline pilot Dennis Dentley Dickinson, 41, with three felony counts of tax evasion and promptly distributed a press release announcing the arrest.

Dickinson is the ninth pilot to face similar charges since March 2002. In each case, a pilot allegedly claimed residency in a state without income tax to avoid paying taxes in Minnesota. The prosecutor says Northwest Airline records show Dickinson is based out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, but claimed Florida as home to his employer.

The department alleges that Dickinson failed to file Minnesota income tax returns for tax years 1999, 2000 and 2001. The agency estimates he owes the state more than $17,100 in income tax. Dickinson lives Bayport, Minn. and has been a Northwest Airlines pilot since 1985.

The state also pointed to other items of alleged culpability:  

  • Revenue investigators found significant evidence that Dickinson lived in Minnesota.
  • He owns a home in Minnesota and lives there with his wife and their children.
  • His daily financial and personal business was conducted in Minnesota.
  • He is listed in the St. Paul phone book.

When Dickinson bought the home in June 1999, he claimed on property records that it would be his primary residence. The state claims Dickinson also owns a condominium with his mother in St. Petersburg Beach, (FL), but investigators found little evidence to support residency in that state. He is not registered to vote in Florida, and there are no records of vehicles registered to him in the state.

For each felony count of tax evasion, Dickinson faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. Each of the eight pilots charged earlier were either found guilty at trial or pleaded guilty.

To learn more about this case, ANN attempted to contact the Minnesota Department of Revenue but none of our requests were returned. While we could not determine the state's basis for the public disclosure of this particular case, we should note the agency does provide a list of all tax offenders on their website. However, ANN would like to know why press releases were not distributed in cases not dealing with airline pilots.

Nevertheless, transient pilots should take note. Please recognize the need to keep your tax information in order, as it appears the state of Minnesota, and surely others, are intent on catching dubious tax returns.

FMI:  www.taxes.state.mn.us

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