Some Celebs Who Avoided the IRS

Even though many well-known performers, athletes and entrepreneurs make more money than Midas, sometimes they just don't want to share any of those hard-earned bucks with Uncle Sam.

Tax evasion has become a widespread and costly practice. Tax avoidance schemes cost the U.S. Treasury tens of billions of dollars a year. And the IRS has not been particularly adept at catching all of the offenders. In 2000, the IRS caught about $5 billion in improper tax avoidance or tax credit and refund claims, although the General Accounting Office estimates that $20 billion to $40 billion is still uncaught.

But there are exceptions to those who get away with it. And if there's any lesson to be learned from Al Capone, the infamous mobster who was ultimately sent to the big house for tax evasion in 1930, it's that crime doesn't pay. Yet that hasn't stopped these people from trying their luck:

Gamblin' Man: Former major league baseball player Pete Rose was convicted in 1990 of filing two fraudulent tax returns and admitted concealing $300,000 of income from gambling and baseball card shows. Rose, who was banned from baseball for gambling in 1989, served five months in prison for the crime.

Pinstriped Prisoner: Troubled ex-Yankee Darryl Strawberry pleaded guilty for failing to pay taxes between 1986 and 1990. The former outfielder received a six-month sentence of home confinement and was ordered to pay $350,000 in back taxes and penalties.

Giant Omission: Former New York Giant Lawrence Taylor received three months' house arrest, five years' probation and 500 hours of community service after pleading guilty in 1997 to failing to report $48,000 in income from a sports pub he owned in East Rutherford, N.J., on his 1990 income tax return. He earned $1.39 million that year.

Paternal Problem: Steffi Graf has had her share of problems through no fault of her own. The German tennis champ's father, Peter Graf, was sentenced in 1997 to three years and nine months prison for evading taxes on $6.55 million of his daughter's tennis earnings. He was released in April 1998 after serving more than half the sentence.

Hot Hotelier: So-called "Queen of Mean" Leona Helmsley was convicted of tax evasion in 1989 after being found guilty of evading $1.2 million in federal taxes by billing $4 million in personal expenses to her business. Among the items she billed included a $130,000 indoor-outdoor stereo system for her mansion that she charged as a security expense for one of her buildings. She was sentenced to 30 months in prison, which a judge later reduced to 21 months because of her husband Harry's failing health. She ended up serving 18 months in prison, a month in a halfway house and two months of house arrest in her own posh Manhattan hotel.

Disco Evasion: Hailing the end of '70s excess, Studio 54 owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were sentenced to 3½ years in prison and fined $20,000 each in 1980 after pleading guilty to tax evasion. A throng of 3,000 celebrity studded partygoers reportedly danced the night away at the duo's going away party held at the club the night before they served their sentence. Rubell died in 1989, while Schrager now owns a group of upscale hotels.

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