The late comedian George Carlin had a $3 million tax debt that took him about two decades to pay off, but he credited the debt with keeping him working as a comic.

The Web site Don't Mess with Taxes included a link to a 2001 interview with Esquire magazine in which Carlin discussed his old tax problems.

"Because of my abuse of drugs, I neglected my business affairs and had large arrears with the IRS, and that took me 18 to 20 years to dig out of," he said. "I did it honorably, and I don't begrudge them. I don't hate paying taxes, and I'm not angry at anyone, because I was complicit in it. But I'll tell you what it did for me: It made me a way better comedian. Because I had to stay out on the road and I couldn't pursue that movie career, which would have gone nowhere, and I became a really good comic and a really good writer."

Carlin also talked about his tax debt with Bankrate.com last December to explain why he started doing commercials for long-distance service provider 10-10-220. "In the early '80s I discovered that I had made bad business decisions during the last half of the '70s and was deeply in debt to the IRS," he said. "It was still 70 percent tax at the time. I was behind. The penalties and interest were burying me, and I had no career to speak of. ... Penalties and interest on back taxes make a mountain out of a mole hill."

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