Mary Boone. Photo by Carly Otness/MACKME.COM, via Flickr.
The veteran gallerist Mary Boone has pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns in 2011, spending $1.6 million of her gallery’s money on personal expenditures—including $800,000 to remodel her Manhattan apartment—and then claiming them as tax-deductible business expenses. Her gallery also claimed a false business loss on its 2012 tax forms, stating that it had operated at a loss of approximately $52,521 in 2011, when in fact the gallery made about $3.7 million in profit that year. According to a statement released by Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, and James D. Robnett, the special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Criminal Investigation unit at its New York field office, Boone used these and other tactics to evade some $1.2 million in federal taxes in 2011, instead copping to a tax liability of just $335.
Boone “admitted to cheating the U.S. tax system by blatantly lying about her expenses and playing a shell game with bank accounts to hide her true assets,” Berman said in a statement. “While tax evasion may seem like a victimless crime, it isn’t; all Americans must pay their taxes. And as Boone has learned, tax laws are not abstract.”
According to the Department of Justice’s release about the case, Boone engaged in similar practices when filing her taxes for 2009 and 2010, evading more than $3 million in taxes in total over three years. She has agreed to pay at least $3,097,160 to the IRS in restitution. She will be sentenced on two counts of filing false federal income tax returns (each of which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison) on January 18th.
Boone, who has been a fixture of the New York art world and the global art market for decades, opened her eponymous gallery in Soho in 1977. She currently operates spaces in Chelsea and Midtown, where she shows some of the biggest names in contemporary art, including Ai Weiwei, Dawoud Bey, Barbara Kruger, and Peter Saul. Last year, she settled a lawsuit with actor Alec Baldwin after she purposely sold him the wrong Ross Bleckner painting; as part of the settlement, she paid Baldwin a seven-figure sum and Bleckner had to make him a brand new painting.