Grammy award-winning singer Lauryn Hill was sentenced Monday to three months in federal prison for failing to pay taxes on more than $2 million in earnings during a five-year period.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark, N.J. federal court also sentenced the famed rapper and actress to three months of home confinement with electronic monitoring after the prison term. Hill must also serve a year of supervised release and pay a $60,000 fine in addition to paying her tax debt to the IRS. There’s New Jersey’s taxpayer’s dollars being put to work, even after Hill paid $970,000 to satisfy the $1 million owed in taxes.
Hill told the judge she lives “very modestly” considering how much money her music — she has sold 16 million records — earned for other people.
“Someone did the math, and it came to around $600 million,” she said. “And I sit here before you trying to figure out how to pay a tax debt? If that’s not like enough to slavery, I don’t know.”
“This wasn’t a life of jet-setting glamour,” she said. “This was a life of sacrifice with very little time for myself and my children.”
“Although Hill pleaded guilty to charges specifically related to those tax years, her sentence also takes into account additional income and tax losses for 2008 and 2009 — when she also failed to file federal returns — along with her outstanding tax liability to the state of New Jersey, for a total income of approximately $2.3 million and total tax loss of approximately $1,006,517,” the prosecutor said.
Hill’s attorney, Nathan Hochman, did bring up an interesting thought in an interview with CNN:
“I think the government has let a number of celebrities off and never criminally prosecuted them, Willie Nelson being at least one example,” he said. “I think that the court took that into account as well. Ms. Hill did not get a slap on the wrist and let off with just paying a certain amount of money but has had to go through this entire criminal prosecution.”
Willie Nelson and Nicholas Cage, both of whom owe over $10 million in back taxes, got off with payment plans.
Hill is tentatively scheduled to begin her prison term July 8. It was not immediately clear where she would serve the sentence.
Celebrities With Tax Problems:
Money owed: $1 million plus penalties
Prison sentence: 2-3 years
The rapper and actor pled guilty to tax evasion last April in a Newark, N.J., federal court. Admitting that he hadn’t paid tax from earnings in 2004 and 2006, Ja Rule will pay more than $1 million in back taxes and penalties and serve two years in prison. Though the MTV Video Award winner did catch a break: He will be able to serve his federal sentence concurrently with the two years he’ll already be serving in New York for attempted possession of a weapon stemming from a 2007 incident — the same incident that put rapper Lil Wayne in behind bars for nine months.
Money owed: $2.85 million
Prison sentence: None
The Academy-Award winning director made headlines last March when it was revealed that the IRS had a levied a $2.85 million lien against him. And in a plot twist worthy of Casino, the bill was delivered on Valentine’s Day. A spokesman for the director has since said that any monies owed had been paid in full and the matter was now closed. But it isn’t Scorsese’s first run in with the IRS — he’s had a series of big liens since 2002, according to the New York Post. It’s been reported that Scorsese’s tax troubles stem from his relationship with Kenneth Starr, his financial advisor from the nineties until last year, just months before Starr pleaded guilty to a $33 million Ponzi scheme and was sentenced to more than seven years in prison.
Money owed: $16.7 million
Prison sentence: None
Let’s not forget that the country singer, enthusiastic defender of marijuana and friend of President Jimmy Carter, is still the only person to admit to smoking pot in the White House. So his 1990 tax troubles had a distinct counter-cultural rebel vibe. The IRS seized his property claiming he owed $16,700,000 in back taxes. Nelson had settled with Uncle Sam for $6 million but when he couldn’t come up with the money, the Feds sent his possessions (including six houses) to auction. In classic outlaw style, the only asset Nelson sent into hiding was his guitar, Trigger. Nelson also received an undisclosed settlement from the Price Waterhouse accounting firm to settle claims that they’d involved the Farm Aid founder in bad tax shelters.
Money owed: $17 million
Prison sentence: 3 years
On December 9, 2010, Wesley Snipes, the actor best known as the vampire in Blade, reported to the McKean Federal Correctional Institution to serve three years for the failure to file federal taxes for three years. Convicted in 2008, Snipes also owed the government 17 million dollars in back taxes. Even now, Snipes charges he was targeted by the IRS for his celebrity and given a disproportionately long sentence compared to similar convictions.
Money Owed: $14 million
Prison Sentence: None
In April, Cage plunked down $6.25 million to help pay off the massive back taxes he owed the IRS, according to documents obtained by E! News. The payment covered taxes owed on his 2007 earnings. However, in 2010 he told People that he owed $14 million in back taxes, which meant that even after paying over $6 million, the Ghost Rider star had about $7 million more to go at the time.