It would be a misnomer to think that only the extremely poor get in trouble for not paying their taxes. In many cases, those who are convicted of tax evasion are actually well able to pay their taxes, but don’t for one reason or another. From accounting errors to pure refusal, some of the biggest celebrities and rich have been convicted of tax evasion. Some of them even went to jail. David Stewart discusses five of the most egregious incidents of celebrity tax evasion.
Willie Nelson: The famous country singer created an album “The IRS Tapes: Who Will Buy My Memories?” to help pay off his back taxes. Unfortunately, with the penalties and interest of years of nonpayment, Nelson owed more than $16.7 million. To pay back the IRS, Nelson had to sell off many of his possessions, but he has bounced back since then.
Nicolas Cage: In 2009, Cage was given a $6.2 million bill in back taxes from the IRS for a failure to pay taxes on $24 million he made on two movies. Unfortunately, Cage’s business manager did not report this income and may have been defrauding Cage in the process. Cage had to sell several homes and memorabilia to pay the bill.
Wesley Snipes: Snipes went to jail for three years after failing to pay his tax bill of $17 million. This number included a large amount of penalties and interest in addition to back taxes. Snipes was freed from prison in 2013.
Richard Hatch: Although more than 50 million people watched Richard Hatch win the first season of Survivor, he didn’t think that the IRS was. This is the only line of reasoning that could have led him to not report his Survivor prize of over a million dollars. He was sentenced to six years and has run into trouble with the IRS since his release.
Leona Helmsley: Helmsley did not pay taxes because as she put it, “We don’t pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes.” She was charged with tax evasion and sentenced to 16 years in prison in 1989. She would end up serving 19 months.
On May 16th, thousands of undergraduate students will don their caps and gowns and receive their diploma from Western Kentucky University. As one of the top schools in the state of Kentucky and the entire southeastern region, Western Kentucky produces many talented young men and women, but as with many of us who were that age once know, the future can be intimidating. As a resident of Western Kentucky’s home, Bowling Green, KY, and a successful businessman, David Stewart has seen many talented people from Western Kentucky and other universities take their talents to the real world. Here are some things many of them know:
You Don’t Have to Have Everything Figured Out When You’re 25: Most of us don’t. If you don’t have your dream job right out of college, that’s okay. A great majority of us will have a career change at least five times in our lives. This is the time to learn more about yourself and the workplace to see what you might like to do to make a living. Always keep an ear for opportunities. You’ll be surprised how careers are made through a random series of events.
You’re Allowed to Fail: Our early twenties are the time to fail. As we get older, most of us will have more responsibilities that limit our ability to take chances: families, mortgages, etc. When you’re 22 or 23, you’re most likely renting and don’t have children yet. This is the time to take a chance and pursue your passion. If you do fail, you can pick yourself up and try something else.
Don’t Burn Bridges: Remember earlier about always keeping your eye open to new opportunities? The truth is that you’ll never know where that next opportunity might come from. Therefore, it’s important to make connections and keep those connections open. For example, if you leave a job that you don’t particularly like, don’t then trash the boss or your co-workers. You may never know where you might run into them into the future.
David Stewart would like to wish Western Kentucky graduates the best of luck as they make their mark in the world.