It’s with a tinge of schadenfreude that people are fascinated with the failures and foibles of famous celebrities. Every year, the IRS chases people who evade or underpay federal income tax, and actors and popular figures in the media, who often don’t manage their own finances, make the news.
The latest is Lindsay Lohan. You may remember her from such films as Mean Girls, Freaky Friday, and Herbie Fully Loaded. TMZ has discovered that the IRS has obtained against Lindsay for almost $100,000, representing tax she didn’t pay for her income in 2009. Like many busy people, Lindsay employs an accountant to handle her finances, and she says the oversight will be handled immediately.
The sum Lindsay owes is small compared to the problems other celebrities have had with the IRS.
Wesley Snipes failed to pay up to $17 million to the IRS for his income taxes, not including penalties and interest. After his trial and a failed appeal, he was sentenced to prison for three years.
Nicolas Cage also blamed his accountant for his failure to pay a $14 million tax bill in 2010; even more recently, Nic failed to pay over $600,000 for a gift tax.
Pamela Anderson owed $2 million to the IRS and to the state of California.
Annie Leibovitz isn’t a movie star, but she is at the top of the list of famous modern photographers. She owed $2.1 million in back taxes, and pledged to sell her ownership of her photography to pay the bills.
Martha Stewart owed $220,000 to New York for taxes, but she believed she didn’t need to pay this tax because she didn’t spend time in that state.
Celebrities often have tax situations that differ from people who aren’t performers or professional athletes. They need to handle state tax returns for every state in which they’ve earned income each year, just like all taxpayers, but in any given year, performers may have earned income in a large number of states. Celebrities will almost always be too busy to handle their own tax returns, so they trust accountants to handle the paperwork and the payments.
On the other hand, it’s safe to say that some famous individual who owe the government money for failure to pay their tax bills are aware of the situation and are trying to skirt the law as much as possible, until they are forced to pay.
Published or updated January 12, 2012.