The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Are Allegedly At The Center Of A $2 Billion Tax Fraud Scheme

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have just met their greatest foe yet: taxes. According to a report from The New York Times, Viacom, which owns the rights to the Turtles along with Transformers and a slew of other intellectual property, is under intense scrutiny after a Dutch non-profit alleged that the media conglomerate has been going to great lengths to avoiding paying the U.S. government billions in taxes by using a convoluted loophole where it attributed revenue from the blockbuster franchises to foreign entities.

As the Times explains, a former Viacom employee sued for “retaliatory firing” after she objected to the practice in 2016, but both parties eventually settled and sealed the terms of the agreement. However, details of the lawsuit have now been made public, which paints a picture of the alleged tax scheme:

In the suit, the executive accused Viacom of “hatching a plan to attribute” the revenue from the popular franchise “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to the Netherlands for tax advantages. While the rights to the franchise are owned by a Dutch entity, “all of the business concerning those rights took place in New York,” the suit read. “The sole purpose of transferring the licensing rights to the Netherlands company was to avoid the U.S. tax burden,” the suit added.

The study noted that Viacom transferred its intellectual property rights to a subsidiary in Britain in 2015 while keeping the Dutch entities (operating as a subbranch of the British unit) as the jumping-off point for selling foreign rights.

The transfer — essentially a sale from one Viacom subsidiary to another — created a tax benefit, the study said. The transaction was worth $1.8 billion, according to company records cited by the study, a sum it can amortize over many years.

We’re guessing Leo, Mikey, Don, and Raph would never willingly take part in such a scheme that fails to live up to the values and principles of the cowabunga lifestyle.

(Via The New York Times)