Section of Taxation Publications
  VOL. 55
NO. 4
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 Note: The following is an excerpt from the introduction to the article as published in The Tax Lawyer. Author citations have been omitted for brevity. Tax Section members may read the article in its entirety in Adobe Acrobat format.
 How the Board of Tax Appeals Changed Hollywood History
Allen Rostron

Allen Rostron is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence; B.A., University of Virginia, 1991; J.D., Yale Law School, 1994.

Everyone remembers when Charlton Heston, as Moses, held his staff toward the heavens and the Red Sea parted in Cecil B. deMille's epic motion picture The Ten Commandments. Few know the curious tale of tax law that lies behind it. In the early 1930s, the Bureau of Internal Revenue claimed that Cecil and his brother, William C. deMille, also a successful motion picture director, had used personal service corporations to avoid huge amounts of income tax. The deMilles fought the charges. One brother emerged victorious, his career flourished, and he later gave credit to the wisdom of a tax court judge for making it possible for him to make legendary films like The Ten Commandments. The other brother lost, never made another motion picture, and blamed the nation's repressive tax regime for his troubles. This is the story of how the accumulated earnings tax and two decisions by the Board of Tax Appeals changed Hollywood history.


Published by
Section of Taxation, American Bar Association
With the Assistance of
Georgetown University Law Center



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