If you think the rich don’t have to worry about taxes, think again. The taxman waits for no one, not even celebrities, as these hot shots learned the hard way. [Celebrity #7 will surprise you]
In this article
One of the most notorious gangsters, back when gangsters didn’t record albums, Al Capone is Alcatraz’s most famous inmate. Although his criminal activities as a mafia boss were well known, it was his tax evading ways that ultimately put him behind bars in 1931. Despite his brutal actions as a mob boss, he had fans in the public and was cheered when he showed up at baseball games in Chicago. He loved the attention, but his popularity was a huge factor in his conviction. The Courts wanted to make an example of him and doled out the longest sentence to date for tax evasion; 11 years in Federal prison.
Known as the “Hollywood Madam,” Heidi Fleiss was the original millionaire matchmaker, providing high-priced prostitutes to some of the richest men in Los Angeles. Although she never revealed the identities of her clients, they are rumoured to have included Charlie Sheen. She was arrested in 1993 and sentenced to serve three years in jail, but her conviction was overturned on appeal in 1996 after jurors admitted to vote-trading and other no-nos. In 1997, she was arrested for tax evasion and sentenced to 37 months in Federal prison.
A highly recognizable Hollywood actor, Wesley Snipes has acted in 58 films since the mid-80’s, earning himself a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998. In 2008, he was sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly not filing his income tax returns for the years 1999 through 2004. On top of these charges, there were also charges of conspiracy to defraud the Government. Strangely enough, part of his defence on the conspiracy charges was to claim that he was a “non-resident alien” of the United States, despite being born in Florida. He apparently tried to claim a multi-million dollar refund on his income taxes on the basis that non-Citizens don’t have to pay taxes in the States. Nice try, Wesley.
In 2000, Richard Hatch gained fame and notoriety as the first ever winner of Survivor. He was known as a super villain on the show, so it didn’t surprise many when he was subsequently charged with tax evasion in 2003 for allegedly not paying income taxes on his $1 million Survivor winnings. Despite serving 51 months for the crime and further tax evading allegations on a Sydney, Nova Scotia property in 2013, he still maintains his innocence. He claims that he was just late in filing his 2000 and 2001 taxes, and the tax on the $1 million was somehow overlooked by the IRS. Too bad he couldn’t win his Court case by applying some of his underhanded Survivor tactics…although showing up naked in Court probably would have had its own dire consequences.
Although Richard Pryor is renowned as a comedian, mostly in the 70’s and 80’s, he is also known for his widely publicized, troubled private life. His multiple marriages (married seven times), battles with drugs and alcohol and failed suicide attempt on a movie set in 1980 all contributed to his Hollywood notoriety. Considering the magnitude of his other troubles, it’s no surprise then, that his 10-day stint in prison for tax evasion in 1974 has gotten little attention. Always the funny man, his defence included the statement, “I forgot.”
The World renowned Italian actress and sex symbol, Sophia Loren has lived in Switzerland since 2006. Maybe that’s in part because the Italian Government sent her to prison for 17 days in 1982 for allegedly filing a fraudulent tax return in 1974. After decades of denying and appealing the case, she was finally vindicated in 2013 when the Italian Court of Cassation ruled that her 1974 tax returns were right after all. Ouch.
Best known, of course, for her role in the Wizard of Oz, when she was just 17, Judy Garland is one of the most iconic Hollywood actresses of all time. Despite a successful career spanning four decades and many awards, including the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement in the motion picture industry, she struggled in her personal life. She married five times and battled with drugs and alcohol. In the final years leading up to her death by accidental overdose in 1969, she lived in a series of hotels and rental houses after the IRS repossessed her home in 1964 for her failure to pay a $4 million tax bill.
One of the original rock and roll superstars, Chuck Berry, has enjoyed fame and fortune since the mid-50’s. Labelled a chronic tax evader by the IRS, he served a 120-day sentence in 1979 for not paying his dues. This music icon was no stranger to jail, though, having served three years in prison for armed robbery while still in high school and another three years in prison in 1962 for transporting a 14-year-old girl across state lines.
Known as the lead singer of the Fugees, Lauryn Hill gained fame as a singer after an early start as an actress, acting on As the World Turns and in the movie, Sister Act II. Her career hit its peak in 1999, when she won 5 Grammy Awards, having sold 8 million copies of her solo album the previous year. The pressures of fame got to her and she dropped out of the public eye shortly after that. She resurfaced in 2012, but not for her singing. She was sentenced to a three-month prison term for failing to pay nearly $1 million in taxes.
A long time member of Hollywood royalty, Nicolas Cage has acted in 77 films since the early 80’s, has won an Oscar for his role in Leaving Las Vegas, and was nominated and/or won 45 other acting awards during his decades-long career. No surprise then that he’s paid over $70 million in taxes over that period. What is surprising is the $14 million that he didn’t pay to Uncle Sam. In 2009, he was hit with a lien by the IRS for delinquent taxes, interest, and penalties, and a separate lien for unpaid property taxes.