R&B singer Lauryn Hill
is weeks away from landing in federal prison if she can’t come up with $500,000 she owes in federal income taxes.At a sentencing hearing Monday, a New Jersey judge gave the Fugees front woman and mother of six an extra two weeks to come up with the cash.
“This is not someone who stands before the court penniless,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo said at the hearing. “This is a criminal matter. Actions speak louder than words, and there has been no effort here to pay these taxes.”
It’s been nearly a year since Hill was first arrested for three misdemeanour counts of federal tax evasion, a crime that could earn her as many as three years in federal prison.
She pleaded guilty to claims she hadn’t filed income taxes between 2005 and 2007, a period in which she earned a reported $1.8 million.
At the time, Hill promised to pay $554,000 in federal taxes owed. So far, she’s only paid $50,000 and still owes another $400,000 or so in state taxes.
Hill is not exactly destitute.
She co-headlined a tour as a solo act with hip-hop star Nas less than a year ago, and though reviews were pretty awful, she still managed to ink a reported $1 million recording deal for five new songs.
So why not pay her tax tab and be done with it?
The answer is in a 1200-word statement the singer released online shortly after her arrest in June. In her own words, here’s why she skipped out on taxes:
She had trouble seeing eye to eye with the music industry. “Having made hundreds of millions of dollars for certain institutions, under complex and sometimes severe circumstances, I began to require growth and more equitable treatment, but was met with resistance … I’ve seen people promote addiction, use sabotage, black listing, media bullying and any other coercion technique they could.”
She was fighting a “war for safety.” “There were no exotic trips, no fleet of cars, just an all out war for safety, integrity, wholeness and health, without mistreatment denial, and/or exploitation. In order to liberate myself from those who found it ok to oppose my wholeness, free speech and integral growth by inflicting different forms of punitive action against it, I used my resources to sustain our safety and survival until I was able to restore my ability to earn outside of it!”
Her free speech was being threatened. “These forms of expression, along with others, effectively comprise my free speech! Defending, preserving, and protecting these rights are critically important, especially in a paradigm where veiled racism, sexism, ageism, nepotism, and deliberate economic control are still blatant realities!!!”
And, finally, the point:
She did it for her family. “My intention has always been to get this situation rectified. When I was working consistently without being affected by the interferences mentioned above, I filed and paid my taxes. This only stopped when it was necessary to withdraw from society, in order to guarantee the safety and well-being of myself and my family.
Her argument is extensive and certainly impassioned… but there’s no way that will fly with the IRS. Taxpayers have to prove they were unable to pay due to “reasonable cause and not willful neglect.”
Thanks to Hill’s little online manifesto, she basically admits to neglecting to pay her taxes on purpose.