Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Lauryn Hill has been sentenced to three months in prison and three months of home confinement for failing to file tax returns for five years and not reporting more than $2.3 million in income.
Hill, 37, of South Orange, N.J., had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to file tax returns with the IRS (see Singer Lauryn Hill Pleads Guilty to Not Paying Taxes). The sentence was imposed Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in a Newark, N.J., federal court.
In addition to being a singer and actress, Hill owned and operated four S corporations, and her primary source of income was royalties from the recording and film industries. She won Grammy Awards for her 1998 solo album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” and had recorded several successful albums with her previous group, The Fugees.
During 2005, 2006 and 2007, Hill received more than $1.8 million in income from those sources, according to prosecutors, but didn’t file her tax returns for those years.
During the hearing, Hill compared her tax predicament to slavery. “I was put into a system I didn’t know the nature of,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I’m a child of former slaves. I got into an economic paradigm and had that imposed on me,” she said. “I sold 50 million units ... now I’m up here paying a tax debt. If that’s not likened to slavery, I don’t know what is.”
When Hill was originally charged by federal authorities, she wrote a lengthy explanation on her Tumblr blog of her rationale for not paying taxes, saying she had gone “underground … in order to build a community of people, like-minded in their desire for freedom and the right to pursue their goals and lives without being manipulated and controlled by a media protected military industrial complex with a completely different agenda.” However, she added that she eventually hoped to straighten out her tax problems (see Lauryn Hill Explains Failure to Pay Taxes).
While Hill pleaded guilty to charges specifically related to those tax years, her sentence also takes into account additional income and tax losses for 2008 and 2009— when she also failed to file federal returns—along with her outstanding tax liability to the state of New Jersey, for a total income of approximately $2.3 million and total tax loss of approximately $1,006,517.
In addition to the prison term and home confinement, Judge Arleo sentenced Hill to serve a year of supervised release and ordered her to pay a $60,000 fine in addition to her restitution to the IRS. Judge Arleo also ordered Hill to fully cooperate with the IRS, including payment of outstanding interest and penalties on her tax obligations.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman credited special agents with IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen, with the investigation. The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra L. Moser of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
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