As the old saying goes, death and taxes are the only certainties in life. Unless you’re a celebrity, that is.
Before we get into this, let’s note the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. The former is a way of using legal means to lower the amount owed. The latter refers to the practice of evading taxes in an illegal manner.
In the history of the IRS, there have been plenty of cases that fall into the latter category. Here are the 4 most famous tax evaders of all time.
Say what you want about the Blade star, but he’s a fighter. When accused of tax fraud charges in 2008, he tried every defense. He blamed his advisers, claimed the IRS was illegitimate, argued that he was a nonresident alien, and so on.
In a lengthy trial, though, Snipes was unable to shake off the IRS. He was eventually sentenced to three years in prison for willful failure to file his tax returns. His total debt was in the range of $23.5 million.
Known as the “Queen of Mean,” Helmsley was a famous hotel tycoon. Despite being worth more than $1 billion, she was loath to pay taxes. In an attempt to escape them, she billed millions in personal expenses to her business.
During the trial, Helmsley’s reputation caught up with her. At one point, her former housekeeper testified to Helmsley saying that “only little people pay taxes.” She received a sentence of 16 years but served only 19 months.
In his heyday, Capone was the most powerful mobster in America. He orchestrated a wide variety of illegal acts, from bootlegging to murder. Still, the only thing that the police could pin on him was a tax evasion charge.
See, the 16th amendment in 1916 stated that even illegal income was subject to tax. In other words, Capone could file proper taxes (and admit breaking the law) or risk getting jailed for evasion. The court sentenced him to 11 years in prison.