By Rachel Ochman
Roll out the red carpet. The 2010 tax season will probably introduce a star-studded cast of tax evaders, many of whom are already on the IRS’s blacklist.
These celeb tax dodgers help contribute (at least in a small way) to what the IRS estimates to be a $290 billion tax gap—the difference between what’s reported and what’s owed, according to latest data.
Check out who among the elite of the silver screen, television screen and radio waves is hiding from Uncle Sam in the limelight.
Val Kilmer: Even Iceman can’t outmaneuver the IRS. The actor, whose mug has been on the screens with Top Gun, Batman and Heat, among other Hollywood blockbusters, faces a $500,000 lien against his 6,000-acre New Mexico ranch for unpaid 2008 taxes. That comes less than a year after Kilmer settled another $538,858 of owed taxes. To help square away his latest debt, Kilmer discounted the price tag on his ranch to $18.5 million from $23 million (and from an original asking price of $33 million).
Richard Hatch: Federal prosecutors in Rhode Island want to throw the former “Survivor” winner back behind bars for allegedly violating the terms of his three-year supervised release when he refused to file amended tax returns for 2000 and 2001.
Hatch, convicted in 2006 for failing to pay taxes on the $1 million in the show’s prize money, already spent three years in jail from 2006 to 2009, and he still owes about $1.7 million in back taxes. The reality-TV star claims he didn’t re-file because he has an appeal pending in the U.S. Tax Court. The argument apparently doesn’t hold water for the Assistant U.S. Attorney, whose directive could leave Hatch serving up to two more years in the hole. Suddenly, those long-ago trials on that tiny Malaysian island are looking like a walk in the park.
Nas: The IRS hopes the latest $6.46 million lien against the hip-hop star will put a wrap on his deadbeat filing habits. Beyond the bad blood he’s established with the IRS, the rapper is widely known for his years-long feud with rival hip-hop artist Jay-Z. Nas’s hefty bill adds three separate liens filed since 2009, the oldest of which is filed against a Georgia home. Even the rapper’s Queens condominium association has smacked the artist with a $3,860 lien for failing to pay his $420 monthly assessment since last January.
Wesley Snipes: As if ruffling the IRS wasn’t enough, the Blade-trilogy star’s failed attempt to remain free on bail roused the U.S. Marshal’s office last month to haul him to prison to start his three-year sentence for tax evasion. In 2006 Snipes was charged with trying to illegally collect a $7.3 million tax refund, and for failure to file returns from 2000 to 2005. Just two years later the actor was convicted of willful failure to file three income tax returns. Prosecutors argued the actor has ducked taxes since 1999 on income of more than $38 million.
Leona Helmsley once said, “Only the little people pay taxes.” Readers, do you think celebs believe their “bigness” exempts them from ponying up money for Uncle Sam like the rest of us? Should courts dole out harsher sentences to the rich and famous?