Published March 21, 2011
Despite their high-priced tax attorneys and mega-millions, big stars can find themselves in big trouble come tax time.
Take Hollywood director Martin Scorsese. He was recently nailed with a $2.85 million bill for unpaid taxes. Scorsese was charged for past-due tax and related interest penalties. Although Scorsese’s spokeswoman Leslee Dart says the entire amount is now paid in full and that he has no current IRS debts, sources say the Oscar-winning director’s tax woes are due to his dealings with celebrity accountant Kenneth Starr. Starr was jailed for seven and a half years for a $33 million ponzi scheme, and has duped other superstars in his corrupt plots. He scammed Hollywood heavyweights such as Uma Thurman, Lauren Bacall and Al Pacino, to name a few.
Pacino allegedly failed to pay taxes for two years, a bill for $169,143 in 2008 and $19,140 in 2009, totaling $188,283. Anyone who would stiff this “Godfather” star out of $200,000 might be sleeping with the fishes too, but luckily for Al Pacino, the IRS doesn’t handle their business the same way the mob does. Pacino poured the blame on Starr, his business manager and close friend for years. The money hungry financier apparently used a lot of his fraudulent earnings to play sugar-daddy to his younger wife, ex-pole dancer Diane Passage, who enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. “Managers can be very helpful, but many are not skilled in the area of tax planning and some are outright greedy when given control of celebrities finance,” said Ray Lucia, a certified financial planner.
A spokesperson for Pacino said the "Scarface" actor is working to resolve the situation as soon as possible with a new financial manager.
Another Hollywood cash cow who skipped his IRS bill is Jennifer Lopez’s husband, Marc Anthony. The Latin crooner owes $3.4 million for unpaid taxes on his Long Island mansion. Anthony has a history of running from the tax man. In 2007 he failed to pay taxes on his $15 million income over a five-year-period and ended up paying $2.5 million in back taxes. One might assume that such a power couple would have a better handle on their finances, but some tax attorneys aren’t surprised. “They live in a world where everyone gives them more and more leeway and slack -- and they slowly develop an attitude of being above it all,” said Doug Burns, a federal prosecutor who has prosecuted dozens of tax fraud cases.
One pop star even sang a song about paying bills, the aptly titled "Bills Bills Bills," but then forgot to fork up the cash herself. Former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland owes $98,634 in back taxes. The government filed a lien against her on Nov. 8, according to the Detroit News. The songstress hasn’t had much success since splitting from the Beyonce Knowles-led girl group. She also recently parted ways with her long-time manager and Beyonce’s father, Matthew Knowles. “Celebs who are attending to other details in their lives may brush taxes aside for later, but by then it’s too late,” said CelebTV.com host Kelli Zink.
"Survivor” winner Richard Hatch has had his fair share of tax trouble. The reality star spent three years in jail for failing to pay taxes on the $1 million prize money he won on the hit show. Hatch is heading back to the slammer for not settling a tax bill that is now reportedly up to $2 million. Hatch is currently starring in Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” show. Although the episodes of the series have already been filmed, he will miss the live finale in May while he finishes his sentence behind bars. Along with his prison term, Hatch will remain under supervision for 26 months, and 25 percent of his wages will be garnished to pay back the IRS.
Joe Francis, founder of “Girls Gone Wild,” also spent some time behind bars for his tax tribulations and says the IRS targets celebrities every year around tax day. To avoid glitches in your taxes, Francis recommends Hollywood newcomers hire reputable business managers and get references from their other clients. “Good financial managers are helpful, ones like Bernie Madoff are awful. I was young, I was making a lot of money," Francis said. "You trust people like lawyers and accountants. I didn’t even sign my own tax return. I didn’t even question it.”