South Dakota: the Bermuda of the prairie, letting billionaires avoid millions in estate tax


America's billionaires are able to avoid paying millions in inheritance taxes by renting empty storefronts in South Dakota in order to give their trust-funds an SD address, from which they can exploit a deliberate loophole in state tax-law. Over $121 billion in trust-funds is administered through South Dakota, mostly for out-of-state families -- a figure that's tripled in four years. South Dakota's corrupt tax laws also allow for avoiding millions in tax from ordinary investments by the richest people in NY and MA.

South Dakota itself has some dire poverty -- two of the 10 poorest counties in America are in SD -- and lawmakers describe their project to turn the state into "the Bermuda of the prairie" as an economic development project, creating jobs for lawyers and bankers, and "[forging] ties with prosperous families that may one day decide to build a factory or a warehouse here."

The project has failed. The entire trust industry only employs about 100 South Dakotans, but Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard, a former banker, says it's worth it: "If you've got several hundred well-paying jobs, it's worth it to us."

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Clarion application time is running out

I'm teaching the Clarion Science Fiction Writing Workshop this summer at UCSD La Jolla -- it's an amazing writing program (I'm also a graduate), and the early application deadline is coming up:

Applications for the 2013 Clarion Workshop are now open and will remain open until March 1, 2013. If you've been thinking about applying, now's the time. On February 15th, the application fee will increase from $50 to $65. Just our way of encouraging applicants to finish sooner rather than later. We've got a wonderful faculty anxious to share the secrets of great writing with a new class of wonderful students, one of whom might be you! Let Andy Duncan, Nalo Hopkinson, Cory Doctorow, Robert Crais, Karen Joy Fowler, and Kelly Link give you the rocket fuel to power your career. If you're accepted, we'll do our best to make it possible for you to attend. Thanks to Clarion's friends and supporters, there is scholarship money for those who need it. In addition to general scholarships, there are special grants for students of color, students age 40 and older, students who are affiliated with Michigan State University, and students who are affiliated with UCSD. Apply now!

Clarion Writers' Workshop at UC San Diego