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.