Former Fugees vocalist Lauryn Hill is the latest in a long string of musicians who've had to face the music (no pun intended) from the taxman. Hill has been sentenced to spend three months in federal prison for tax evasion despite having paid the nearly $1 million owed to the I.R.S. before she was actually sentenced. The 37 year-old Hill pled guilty last year to three counts of evading taxes and failing to file returns on $1.8 million earned between 2005 and 2007.
While Hill is not the first to have to reconcile an unpaid tax bill, her jail sentence is somewhat of an extreme measure. Once Hill’s sentence in the big clink is wrapped up, she will spend three months on house arrest followed by nine months of supervised release.
Not all musicians who try to evade tax payments end up in jail. But what is certain is this: The taxman will eventually get what is coming to them.
Click below to see the proof:
In 1990, the I.R.S. came knocking on Willie Nelson’s door looking to collect the $16.7 million that he owed in back taxes, penalties and interest. While this amount of money is absolutely astronomical to most of us, it was actually negotiated down from an estimated $32 million. Although Nelson lost the bulk of his assets because of the bill, he avoided any jail term and managed to pay off his debt a short few years later. Remarkably, more than $3 million of his tax money owed was raised from his 1992 album "The I.R.S. Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories."
It’s obvious that MC Hammer wishes he could tell the I.R.S. "U Can’t Touch This" when it comes to his money, the I.R.S. did not appreciate the early '90s superstar avoiding his tax responsibilities. Having reportedly squandered the bulk of his fortune on a lavish lifestyle and lawsuits, Hammer’s money vanished faster than his single "Pray." MC Hammer still reportedly owes $600,000 to the I.R.S. Hammer time indeed.
Despite having built an impressive career in music, Flo Rida might find himself crying all the way to prison if he doesn’t pay his taxes soon. In September of 2012, the I.R.S. discovered the Florida (Flo Rida, get it?) native hadn’t filed his taxes in a few years and owed in the vicinity of $1.1 million to the government. As a result of the money owed, the I.R.S. put a lien against Flo Rida’s South Florida estate. Resolution remains pending.
Jerry Lee Lewis
Chances are very good that Jerry Lee Lewis is not a big fan of the I.R.S. In 1984, the controversial singer surrendered to authorities to face charges of trying to avoid paying almost $1 million in taxes for the years between 1975 and 1980. Lewis was eventually acquitted of those charges, although in a completely shameless display of not being able to handle his money, Lewis would set up a 1-900 number for people to make financial donations to his troubled wallet.
In 1979, the legendary Chuck Berry was sentenced to a total of three months in prison on charges of evading a total of $110,000 in income tax. Although he was facing 11 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines, Berry pled guilty to a single charge of evading income tax. In an ultimate ironic twist, Berry performed at the White House for President Jimmy Carter a few days before he received his sentence.
Ronald Isley of The Isley Brothers
As the lead singer for legendary R&B act The Isley Brothers, Ronald Isley was sentenced to 37 months in prison for attempting to evade his tax responsibilities totaling more than $3 million. Isley served three years and one month in prison and was released in April 2010. Isley’s lawyers reportedly pressed for a more lenient jail sentence but the judge denied their request, deeming Isley a "serial tax avoider."
Owed more than a reported $6 million for the years between 2006 and 2010, the I.R.S. is taking the extraordinary steps of garnishing wages made by hip-hop superstar Nas until his tax bill is paid in full. The Georgia Department of Revenue filed a lien against the rapper’s income, forcing giant concert promoter Live Nation as well as music publishers ASCAP and BMI to withhold revenues that would otherwise be paid to the star. He might be "The Don" on record, but clearly Nas needs a financial Don to help him out of such a situation.
You know that if someone negotiates their tax bill down to be $12.5 million, they must be doing fairly well for themselves. The deceased opera singer reportedly negotiated with the Italian government for 40 days before arriving at the $12.5 million figure. Just three months before this settlement however, Pavarotti had already paid $2.5 million in back taxes. "I wish to emphasize that I am innocent," Pavarotti told Italy’s La Stampa Newspaper. "I have always paid my taxes wherever I have sung, but the Italian state believes I have not paid enough," he said. "I do not want to be known as a tax evader."
Just a little over a year ago, R&B singer Lionel Richie was slapped with a $1.13 million tax lien against his Los Angeles property due to an unpaid tax bill. While the I.R.S. will typically rely on placing liens when they believe the taxpayer is not being cooperative, Richie was singing a different tune: "I was recently made aware of the situation by my new team, and it is being handled immediately," Richie said in a statement. Seeing how he has no history of financial problems in the past, he should be back to dancing on the ceiling in no time.
Last April, the I.R.S. filed an unpaid tax lien against the "This Is How We Do It" singer, alleging that he owed just over $600,000 in unpaid taxes between 1999 and 2001. In a bid to settle his tax bill, Jordan reportedly sold his music catalogue, however the money never made its way to the I.R.S. — another branch of the government is holding it. The cash was sitting frozen in an account administered by the U.S. Trustee Program, a division of the Department of Justice that oversees bankruptcy cases. Jordan declared himself bankrupt in 2004.
Recently sentenced to spend three months behind bars for tax evasion, Lauryn Hill paid off the bulk of her $1 million in back taxes owed to the I.R.S. prior to having been sentenced to prison. Hill compared her career in music to the slavery that her ancestors endured. "I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them. I had an economic system imposed on me." This is not the first time that Hill has looked to place responsibility on others for her problems; her song "I Get Out" was aimed at "the man."