This list contains information about celebrities who have experienced tax trouble, loosely ranked by fame and popularity. Several famous actors, musicians, athletes, and politicians have had tax liens placed against them or been charged with tax evasion. Some of these celebrities paid a fine as soon as they learned of the charges, while others served time in prison.
Who is the most famous person who has found themselves in tax trouble? Lindsay Lohan tops our list. Back in 2012, the IRS seized all of Lindsay Lohan’s bank accounts in order to repay $233,904 in unpaid federal taxes that Lohan owed the government. Pamela Anderson has a history of tax trouble. In 2009, a lien was filed against her for $1.7 million. In 2012, the IRS filed a lien claiming that she owed $259,395.75 for unpaid taxes, and the state of California said she owed $112,118.90.
Several famous men have also been charged with tax evasion. In 2009, the IRS claimed that Nicolas Cage failed to pay over $6.2 million in federal income tax for the year of 2007. The IRS also filed a lien against Cage for more than $350,000 in unpaid taxes dating from 2002 to 2004. In 2008, Wesley Snipes was found guilty on three misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal income tax returns. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Why do you think so many celebrities have trouble paying their taxes?
In late 2018, hip-shaking Shakira was charged with tax evasion by Spanish prosecutors for the years 2012 to 2014. During this time, Shakira claimed to be living in the Bahamas, but was actually living in Spain (where taxes are higher) and only traveling to the Bahamas for work. Considering this, she ended up failing to pay 14.5 million euros ($16.3 million) in taxes to Spain. In turn, Spain is making her pay 19.4 million euros.
2014 was a great year for rapper Iggy Azalea. During it, she dropped a hit album, found worldwide fame, and made tons of cash. Unfortunately, she didn’t share any of it with Uncle Sam. In 2016, the American government slapped Azalea with a $391,056.55 tax lien, claiming that she had shirked her taxpaying duties and needed to pay up.
December 17, 2015: Supermodel (and ex-girlfriend of Leonardo DiCpario) Bar Rafaeli was arrested and charged with tax evasion in Israel. According to Israeli authorities, Refaeli, who is worth more than $20 million, avoided paying millions of shekels in taxes, and never reported another $257,000 in free and discounted perks like luxury cars and housing at the W Towers in Tel Aviv. Her mother was also arrested for tax evasion. They were released on $193,000 bail.
Poor Lindsay’s had her share of rough patches over the years, one of which wasn’t helped by the fact that the IRS seized all of her bank accounts back in 2012. She owed them $233,904 in unpaid taxes, and that was after Charlie Sheen paid $100,000 of her debt for her.
Pamela Anderson was hit with a $1.7 million tax lien in 2010. She couldn’t seem to catch a break as she was sent another bill in 2012, though the second $400,000 lien wasn’t quite as drastic.
In 2009, the IRS claimed that Nicolas Cage failed to pay over $6.2 million in federal income tax for the year 2007. The IRS also filed a lien against Cage for more than $350,000 in unpaid taxes dating from 2002 to 2004.
Life looked a little less than glamorous for Sophia Loren in 1982, when she was forced to serve 18 days in an Italian prison for tax evasion. She maintained she was innocent for years, and in 2013, she was finally vindicated: a court ruled that she was right and had been improperly prosecuted and jailed.
In 1989, Al Sharpton was charged and later acquitted of tax evasion. In 2009, the IRS filed a lien against Sharpton of over $538,000 in back taxes.
In 2011, it was reported that Kelly Osbourne owed more than $30,000 in back taxes to the state of California.
In 2005, “Survivor” winner Richard Hatch found himself in a sea of tax troubles after he failed to declare his winnings to the IRS.
As it turned out, poor Judy had better luck with the Wizard of Oz than she did with the guys behind the IRS curtain. After announcing that she owed the government $4 million in 1964, the IRS eventually repossessed her home, forcing her to live out of motel rooms for a time.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. found himself in tax trouble for allegedly falsifying his 1956 and 1958 Alabama state income tax returns.
Back in 1974, comedian Richard Pryor mounted the best defense ever for tax evasion, explaining to the judge, “You know, I forgot.” The judge seemed to be impressed with Pryor’s willingness to own it and let him off with a 10-day sentence in a Los Angeles county jail.
Keith Richards was reportedly charged with tax evasion.
In 2014, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino was indicted for tax fraud for not paying his full tax bill on $8.9 million in earnings.
In 1990, the IRS seized most of Willie Nelson’s assets after he neglected to pay a $16 million tax bill they served him in 1984. In 1984, the IRS disallowed some exemptions Nelson had claimed on his tax returns, and Nelson blamed the mistake on his former accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers. But he didn’t have the money to pay the bill, so it languished for six years, accruing penalties and interest until it reached $32 million in 1990 and the IRS had enough. Through a combination of a telemarketing sales plan for a new album and a lawsuit against his former accountants, Nelson paid $15 million (the IRS cut the $32 million in half, and the sales of his assets totaled about $2 million) to settle his debt.
Martin Scorsese may know how to direct the hell out of a film, but it turns out that his skills when it comes to choosing an accountant haven’t always been so great. His trouble with the IRS began in 2002, when he was hit with a variety of unpaid back taxes totaling over $2 million, which he wisely paid off quickly. However, he ended up in hot water with the IRS yet again in 2011 when he was hit with a $2.85 million tax lien.
For whatever reason, it seems Martha Stewart’s criminal antics continually fail to amuse the government even as the rest of us have a good laugh at her expense. Before she did her famous stint in prison for insider trading, she was forced to pay $220,000 in back taxes and penalties to the State of New York in 2002 after she failed to pay taxes on her East Hampton mansion. Unfortunately for Martha, her excuse that she hardly spent any time actually residing in the mansion in question did nothing for her in the way of sympathy.
In 2010, the IRS filed a $498,165 lien against Val Kilmer.
Don King was charged with tax evasion back in 1984, but the wrestling promoter was eventually found not guilty of the crime.
Luciano Pavarotti was charged with tax evasion in 1999 and 2001.
Mary J. Blige
In 2013, Mary J. Blige was hit with a $3.4 million tax lien from the IRS. The State of New Jersey also claimed that Blige owed it $901,769.65 in back taxes.
Stephen Baldwin pleaded guilty to tax evasion in 2012.
Marc Anthony has had multiple run-ins with the IRS over the years, starting with an incident back in 2007 where the IRS announced that he owed them $2.5 million in back taxes. The fun continued in 2010 when he received additional bills for over $3 million in unpaid taxes on his Long Island mansion.
In 1990, Pete Rose pleaded guilty to tax evasion for failing to report his gambling winnings and income earned from selling autographs.
In the late-1950s Bud Abbott and Lou Costello found themselves bankrupt after being hit with a crippling bill for back taxes. The duo ultimately broke up after settling their debts.
In 2008, Wesley Snipes was found guilty on three misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal income tax returns. He unsuccessfully attempted a variety of wily ways to avoid filing federal income tax returns between 1999 and 2001, a decision that would ultimately come back to haunt him in 2008. He was eventually sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of owing the federal government $7 million in back taxes plus penalties and interest.
In 1931, the federal government was finally able to bring Al Capone to justice on the unlikely charge of tax evasion.
In 1979, Chuck Berry was sentenced to four months in prison for tax evasion.
Darryl Strawberry was charged with tax evasion in 1994.
In 2007, Joe Francis was indicted for two counts of tax evasion.
Famous Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss may have been able to fend off the feds for years when it came to her world famous prostitution ring, but the jig was up back in 1997 when they were able to serve her with charges of tax evasion.
It was good news and bad news for rapper Ja Rule when he pled guilty to owing more than $1 million in back taxes and penalties due to a litany of tax problems from 2004 – 2008. Though he had to pay the money back and was sentenced to two years in prison, he was able to serve the federal sentence concurrently with another two-year sentence for criminal possession of a weapon in 2007.