The Dairy Tax Shelter
“I’ss how the rich gits richer,” explained Eddie Purinton, blowing his left nostril onto the ground with his right index finger. “Some newfangle’ plan where ya sell yer cows t’a rich person what’s got taxes ta pay, but ’che git ta keep yer cows and he pays no taxes. Duke Sargeant in the ’stension service ’splained it ta me yesserday.”
“I don’ git it,” answered his friend and neighbor Purvis Bettis.
“Ya sell ’em yer cows, they pays ya what they’se worth and maybe ya pay ’em sumpin’ monthly for a lease. The rich peoples write the cows off’n their taxes.
Works fer me. I never made enough money ta pay no taxes anyhow,” added Eddie.
“So they gives ya money, but ’che git ta keep yer cows? Where da I sign up?” said Purvis with a broad grin.
Morrisville residents only wore suits on Sunday, at funerals or at weddings. They were usually black, ill fitting, had some dried mud around the pant cuffs, and needed ironing. The man who accompanied Duke Sargeant on his farm visits in May wore a dark blue suit. Doug Peck of Peck’s Pharmacy noted, “It looked as if it had been painted on him at the bank.”
A number of farmers in Addison County had signed on for the “free money” in Anaconda Trust’s Dairy Buy-Leaseback Program. The program wasn’t for farmers per se, as they typically paid very little tax on their modest incomes, struggling instead to pay property taxes on their large farms. Rather it was for wealthy people looking to shelter large incomes by buying risky gas drilling rigs, oil wells, record and movie contracts, and now dairy and beef herds.
Lamoille County farmers approached the plan with more skepticism than those in Addison. After a presentation by the man in the blue suit, with vigorous nods from Duke Sargeant, seven Lamoille County farmers signed on to the persuasive, if incomprehensible, plan. Each farmer signed a clutch of unread legal documents in exchange for a lavish check and, as if the ink might disappear, Bub Rocheleau went out and bought a new tedder, Omer Ferland, a used bailer, and CC Tremblay a brand new Massey-Ferguson. Marcel Poulin braced and reroofed his slumping barn and added a silo. Thinking way ahead, Newt Estey bought a used trailer on a small lot in Hollywood, Florida.