California Ponzi scheme victims get no relief from state tax bills

SACRAMENTO -- Bernice Tingle, 67, lost her life’s savings of over $1 million to a convicted Bay Area Ponzi scheme operator, who’s now serving 46 months in federal prison.

The retired phone company manager says she now barely gets by on the income she has left. But state tax collectors came after her for $84,000 in taxes on the paper profits that she never got. The debt now is $135,000 with interest and penalty charges.

Tingle got some relief from the IRS, thanks to a ruling helping victims of the more infamous Ponzi schemer Bernard L. Madoff. But California tax officials say they can’t provide a similar break without a new law.

And there may be no help on the way from Sacramento. Last week, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee killed a bill that would have allowed victims of some financial crimes to deduct losses from future tax liabilities.

The bill’s author, Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine), accused the opponents of the bill of “kicking [victims] when they’re down.”

But Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), the committee chairwoman, questioned the need to for SB 797. “I’m not certain that it’s really the role of the state treasury to step in ... when an investment goes wrong.”


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Twitter: @marclifsher

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