Monday, August 24, 2009

The 5 Biggest Celebrity Tax Scandals of 2009

So far in 2009 there have already been a dozen or so celebrities who have made headlines for their tax problems. I have covered a couple of them on my blog so far, but since there have been so many I wanted to put together a list of the biggest celebrity tax scandals. The individuals listed below may be rich and famous, but that does not mean anything to the Federal government. If you do not pay your taxes then the IRS will come after you, even if you are a celebrity.

5. David Brenner

Best known for his stand up comedy, Brenner is also and established author, actor, and filmmaker. He has made over a hundred television documentaries, one of which was even honored with an Emmy award. Brenner also holds the record for the most appearances on "The Tonight Show", with over 158 in his career. Currently, he is working on a new comedy website that will reportedly be known as The Funny Deli.

Earlier this year it was announced that Brenner owed the IRS over $68,222 in unpaid tax liabilities. Although he avoids discussing his finances in interviews, public records show that Brenner filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2004, listing more than $1.73 million in liabilities and only $78,324 in assets. Unfortunately that did not seem to fix his financial troubles, as the IRS filed a lien against his property on June 25th of this year. Reports claim that Brenner has already negotiated an Installment Agreement with the IRS to repay his debts through monthly payments. For more information on IRS Installment Agreements, check out this page on my law firm’s website.

4. Stephen Baldwin

Nearly everyone in the country has heard of the famous Baldwin brothers. Nearly all four siblings work in the entertainment industry and Stephen is no exception. He first showed interest in entertainment while attending high school where he was active in choir and theater. Although he starred in films such as "The Beast of War", his first break-through role was in the 1995 hit movie "Usual Suspects”. Recently, he appeared in a handful of reality shows including "Celebrity Apprentice" and “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here.”

Although he has been on a number of shows over the past few years, Stephen and his wife Kennya were forced to file chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year. In addition to millions of dollars in mortgage debt, the couple also owes the IRS a reported $749,974 in Federal tax debts stretching from 1999 to 2008. Their filing also cited another $194,527 in state tax debts owed to New York.

3. Sinbad

Although Sinbad was once a popular comic, these days his financial troubles are getting more attention than his comedy. Since the beginning of his career in the early 80’s, Sinbad has appeared in several motion pictures including "Jingle All The Way" and "The First Kid." Unfortunately, he has not had a hit project in nearly a decade.

In 2007, it was announced that Sinbad topped California’s list of delinquent taxpayers, with a state tax debt totaling over $2.1 million. At that time it was reported that the debts dated back to 1993. Two years later, Sinbad has apparently still has not settled his tax problems. He once again made California’s list of the top 10 delinquent taxpayers, but this time it is reported that he now owes the state over $2.5 million.

2. Chris Tucker

Comedian and actor Chris Tucker became famous in the early 1990’s because of films such as "Friday,” "The Fifth Element," "House Party 3" "Money Talks," and the “Rush Hour” trilogy. In fact, for the third Rush Hour movie, Tucker was reportedly paid over $20 million, something only a few elite actors can claim. In addition to his films, Tucker is also known for being friends with other celebrities including Bill Clinton, Jackie Chan, and the late Michael Jackson.

Considering the fact that Tucker earned millions of dollars in the past decade, it surprised me to learn that he owes the State of California nearly $3.6 million in unpaid taxes. The state recently slapped Tucker with a lien for the debts stemming from the years 2001-2002 and 2004-2007. Unfortunately, little is known as to the reason for his tax delinquency since his publicist has refused to make any statements on the issue.

1. Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage took the number one spot on my list of the 5 biggest celebrity tax scandals for a number of reasons. First of all, he is probably one of the most famous actors to wind up in trouble with the IRS. He has appeared in dozens of hit movies including “Moonstruck" and "Lord of War", Ghost Rider." Most recently he was seen in the "National Treasure" films, which ironically featured a character that had to go back to work because of IRS tax debts.

Just a few weeks ago, the IRS issued a lien against Cage in the in Orleans District Court in Louisiana. The lien cited delinquent IRS tax liabilities from 2007 totaling over $6.2 million, which is higher than any other celebrity on my list. The address listed on the lien is Cage’s $3.55 million haunted mansion in New Orleans, which was initially built for French royalty. Unfortunately, Cage has not spoken out regarding his debt, so there are no details on whether he has attempted to settle with the IRS or not.

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