American singer-song writer Lauryn Hill, best known for being one of the members of The Fugees, was given a prison sentence for her accounts of tax evasion. Just last year, Hill, who is also known for her 1998 multi-platinum album entitled The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, pleaded guilty for failing to pay her due taxes on her earnings of more than $1.8 million starting from the year 2005 all the way to 2007. As she stood in the federal court, she compared her experience in the music industry as one of ‘slavery’.
Taxes Paid, But Not Enough
In the end, after she has paid the taxes she missed from 2005 to 2007, it simply was not enough for the United States District Court Judge, Madeline Cox Arleo. Despite the assurances made by Hill herself and her team of lawyers that all of her outstanding liabilities have been paid completely, the Grammy Award winner was still slapped with a prison sentence of three months. This was her punishment for not filing and paying her due taxes on time. The same U.S. District Court Judge was also the one who postponed the sentencing after she learned that the singer did not yet make any restitution.
The Verdict – Prison Sentence, House Arrest, Supervised Release, and Fines
Before it was made known that Hill would be spending three months in prison, she originally was facing a sentence of between 24 up to 36 months. Her attorney asked the judge for probation instead of time in prison, saying that Hill has six children with ages ranging from 1 to 15 years old. The U.S. District Court Judge did not grant this. Instead, what Hill got was the 3-month prison stint. Aside from this, the singer-song writer would also have to deal with a house arrest sentence for three months. The house arrest will then be followed by a supervised release of nine months.
Aside from paying the taxes that she failed to, she would also have to settle the penalties as well as interests. All in all, aside from her prison sentence of three months, house arrest of three months, and supervised release of nine months, Lauryn Hill would have to pay a fine, adding $60,000 to her list of payments.
Hill’s Other Unpaid Taxes
During her sentencing, the court also took into consideration all of Hill’s unpaid federal and state taxes, from 2008 to 2009. This brought the award-winning singer/songwriter’s total earnings to around $2.3 million. After she paid nearly $1 million a few days before her sentencing, Hill still had interest and penalties to pay.
In a controlled, but definitely forceful statement to the court (which was also punctuated by a number of raps), Hill stated her reasons for failing to pay her taxes. She stated that it was because she wanted to protect herself and her six children. She proceeded by saying that this was the time that she dropped out of the industry, when she can no longer carry on the treatment she was receiving from the music and entertainment business. She said that she received veiled threats, including blacklisting.
Hill’s and Her Lawyer’s Arguments for Probation
The 37-year old resident of South Orange faced a sentence of up to one year on each of her three counts of tax evasion. She and her lawyer requested for probation, with her counsel pointing out the charitable works that she has accomplished, her family circumstances, and the fact that she has already paid all the taxes that she owed. According to her attorney, these things should at least merit some sort of consideration.
Sandra Moser, the Assistant United States Attorney, acknowledged the creative talent and the charitable works of Hill on behalf of the impoverished children that she helped. However, she said that Hill’s reasons and explanation for what she did were only excuses that centered around her feelings of being ‘put upon’. She went on saying that these do not, in any way, exempt the singer from the things that she is responsible for which is paying taxes. Moser also told the judge that the award-winning singer was not interested in paying the money that she owed, despite making millions out of her albums.
Hill and Her Claims of Slavery
During Hill’s sentencing, she took advantage of the chance to make a statement, where she likened the situation she was facing to slavery. She told the judge that she was placed into a system that she was not aware of the nature of. She proceeded in saying that her parents were former slaves and that she entered an economic paradigm that was imposed on her. She went on to tell the court that she was able to sell 50 million units and now she ended up having to pay tax debts. Her final say on the matter was that her situation is an example of how slavery is.
How Hill is to Pay Her Bills
With all of these going on, how is Lauryn Hill going to pay her bills, debts, penalties, and fines? Well, she signed a contract with Sony Records. This deal was met with various responses, both negative and positive, from her fans. Many of her fans were happy and excited upon hearing that she is set to make a new album. However, there were also concerns that this kind of record deal has a great possibility of compromising her artistic talents.
Hill was known for her stand against the business side of the music industry, saying that the business valued money more than the people working hard to create the music. The first song that has been produced for her contract with Sony is entitled ‘Neurotic Society’. The song has already been released two months ago in the music platform iTunes.
So what is the lesson here? Pay your taxes, of course. There are a lot of people working so hard just to make a fraction of what Lauryn Hill made in her time at the music industry, who do not forget to pay their taxes. Yes, these hard working individuals complain, but they do not go as far as failing to pay for their due taxes.
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