Three things in life are certain, to riff on an old saying: death, taxes – and efforts by some to avoid both.
Americans owe about $290 billion in back taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The number, which dates back to 2001, is the most recent estimate available. It includes not just those who purposefully fudged their taxes, but also those who may have underreported their income by mistake or who are late on payments.
Judging by news in the gossip rags and elsewhere, a good slice of this debt is owed by celebrities.
"Many times celebrities are the victims of bad advice or incompetency of their tax advisor," says Robert Bernhoft, a lawyer who represents high-profile defendants in disputes with the IRS.
"Because there are fairly large numbers involved, when celebrities get entangled with the IRS it attracts a lot of attention."
With the April 15 tax deadline around the corner, we took a look at some of the most publicized recent celebrity run-ins with the IRS.
Famous for his roles in films ranging from Spike Lee's "White Men Can't Jump" to action thrillers such as "Blade," Snipes was convicted of tax fraud in 2008. Jurors concluded that he failed to file taxes on "unreported" gross income of $13 million earned between 1999 and 2001. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but remains free while he appeals.
As one of Hollywood's best-paid actors, with an Oscar for his starring role in "Leaving Las Vegas," Cage has managed to dig himself a pretty deep hole. Cage has been in trouble with the IRS for several years, after what he claims was mismanagement by a former business advisor.
In January Cage told People.com that he still owes the IRS $14 million. To help pay off his bills, Cage has reportedly sold off a wide range of assets, including a 14,300-square-foot Las Vegas mansion.
The mustachioed "Smoky and the Bandit" star owes the cash-depleted California government some $225,000 going back to 1996, according to recently released government documents. That puts him in spot No. 247 of California's biggest tax scofflaws. Reynolds was not available for comment.
Anthony, the Latino heartthrob and husband of Jennifer Lopez, wasn't able to sing himself out of a hefty IRS charge. The voice behind "I Need to Know" agreed to pay $2.5 million in back taxes, interest and penalties in 2007, after he failed to file tax returns for five years, according to the Associated Press.
The "American Idol" crooner from Alabama ended up with property liens for failing to pay almost $200,000 in taxes between 2003 and 2005, the same year he won the TV contest. Court records cited by AP last year showed that he owed the federal government $171,920 in unpaid income taxes and $21,730 in state income taxes. Studdard's manager did not immediately return calls for comment.
Cute, fast and coordinated.But that didn't protect Castroneves, the Brazilian race car driver and "Dancing With the Stars" contestant, from trouble with the IRS.