Business that's a front, but not for crime.

Partly inspired by this thread.

I’ve often wondered if there would be any laws broken by setting up a phony business to keep your friends and neighbors from knowing you were living on income from a trust fund/huge lottery win/lucky investment that paid off big time, etc.

Rather than a storefront I was thinking of someone renting an office and putting up a sign saying something vague like “Ruffhuffner & Associates – appointment only.”, then telling friends that they worked for a confidential consulting firm. And of course being totally upfront about income when filing taxes.

No, that would simply be called “renting some office space”.

What makes a criminal front illegal is that you are putting the proceeds of your illegal business into it with the intent of concealing the true source of that income. IOW money laundering and racketeering.

I read about a British couple who won a significant amount on the lottery but didn’t want their wealth to spoil the kids or mess up their relationship with friends and family. So they bought a Scottish Castle, moved in with the family and told everyone they were the caretakers. I thought that was kinda cool.

It’s not unusual for people like this to have a “hobby business” - a business that doesn’t earn enough money to live on, or sometimes even to meet its own expenses. There were a number of these in the small town where I used to live; most of them were run by retirees.

If those make a loss, they can become illegal if you attempt to claim expenses and losses in a way the IRS doesn’t like.

People can get a Federal Firearms License 01 and not open a shop. I believe you need “premises,” but it can be your home. You need “business hours” as well.

FFL03 is for collecting. You can use it as a “front” to buy and sell, but the BATFE doesn’t like it. If you think the IRS’ rules are nebulous…

As mssmith said, you could certainly rent some office space and even get some business cards with your cell phone number on them or make a website, but that’s as far as you need to go. Unless you think your neighbors are so nosy they’re going to go digging for your Federal ID number you don’t actually need to file any kind of taxes or set anything up with the state or IRS.
Actually, I wouldn’t even bother to rent the office space. Just get some business cards with your ‘business’ name on them and leave it at that. Make up whatever cover story you want, but no one is going to follow you to work or anything. Think about how many people have asked where you work…how many have doubted it or gone out of their way to verify it on their own? None I assume. Hand them the card, tell them you do some “Consulting, mostly for Motorola’s government suppliers, yeah know, the school districts, army bases things like that, what do you do?” and move on.

“You’re right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place… in 60 years.”

Rosebud was his childhood sled.

It’s not uncommon for wealthy people to get a real estate license to hang in someone else’s office and not work at all in the business. As long as they pay their dues, it’s easy to find a broker willing to do it.

On a different note, there are actually places that are fronts for the real business underneath, but nothing illegal is involved.

There’s the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store which is a front for a tutoring center/writing lab for neighborhood kids. Similarly, Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood has the Boring Store (Not A Secret Agent Store) which serves a similar function.

Or there’s the Safe House in Milwaukee, a spy-themed bar/restaurant that you access through an ordinary sandwich shop.

What about those late night commercials that say “Get item X for free, just pat S&H”?

And when I say free, I mean free and NOT “Buy this and get the second one free just pay S&H.”
Aren’t those just fronts for their crappy shipping business? (I don’t know because I’ve never actually ordered any of those things."

When I lived in Ealing, West London, there was a very tatty looking restaurant on a local High st. AFAIK in 10 years it didn’t open although it appeared fairly clean inside.
Thought no more of it until I idley googled it

Truth is sometimes more bizarre than fiction!

In the 80s I knew an older Greek guy who had a sort-of restaurant. It was mainly a place for him to hang out. He was the chef/waiter/cashier/only employee. He didn’t have a liquor license, but if he knew you (as he did me) he would get a bottle out from behind the counter and pour drinks. His cooking was good, but there was no menu.

People who knew him would have a nice meal and maybe a few shots of ouzo. When you went to the register he would say, “Ahhh. . .gimee ten dollar” and you would. If you left a tip he would be insulted, and tell you to shove your fucking charity up your ass (I was there twice when that happened).

Hello? Not registering a business with the government is illegal. And if (or when) they find out, there will be hell to pay.

IIRC from my father’s group travel business, you have to show a profit one year out of every three at a minimum. Travel businesses get audited quite often, since so many people have tried using them as ways to make their personal vacations deductible as business expenses.

At one place I worked, they bought a building and moved it. Out the back window, I could see what was a derelict shack with a faded sign for a fuel oil business. The store looked abandoned, and behind the plate glass was a bunch of junk parts and tools.

I asked my boss whether we owned the shack. He said it wasn’t part of the property, and was an actual place of business. The owner showed up from time to time, and occasionally went out with his rusted truck to deliver fuel oil. He’d also feed the pigeons, hoping they’d crap on the bank next door (the bank was owned by a family that also ran a competing fuel oil company).

Not if there is no business to register. We’re talking about fooling your friends, not the IRS.

The small Illinois city where I used to live had two family-owned Greek restaurants. I never found out what brought those families specifically to this town, because it doesn’t have any sizable Greek community, but they were very upfront that they were living here in the States (legally, BTW) and had that business so they could get 38 Social Security quarters. Both restaurants had very good food, although I refused to patronize one of them after they wouldn’t let a man in with his Seeing-Eye Dog. They claimed that he didn’t look like he was blind. :mad:

I get robocalls all the time from some outfit that wants to “give” me a $100 Wal-Mart voucher for free. All I have to do is pay $3.95 to ship it. :smack: First of all, I don’t shop at Wal-Mart, PERIOD, and second of all, last time I checked, a stamp costs 46 cents, and bulk rate is even cheaper.

I think it’s a scam myself.

I rent a booth at a small antique mall, and one of the storefronts also touts itself as an “antique store” that’s open by appointment only, but I’ve never seen anyone go in there, and I’m not sure how anyone COULD go in there because the place is packed solid. The owners of the antique mall said they believe the person who rents that space is a hoarder and uses it for her overflow. The building is for sale, and they looked into buying it just so they could kick her out, because they feel this is a fire hazard. Their offer was rejected because the building doesn’t meet modern codes for a commercial building space, and it would cost more to retrofit it than it would to demolish and rebuild.