There is a long list of high-profile people indebted to the Internal Revenue Service. Once outed for their tax transgressions, some of these stars will excuse themselves by declarations of poor accounting or perhaps an admission of a lack of funds. Very few, however, have chosen to explain their tax evasion charges by citing it as a form protest and means of protection from “a media-protected military industrial complex with a completely different agenda.”
Perhaps it’s that sort of differentiation from the crowd that partially made Ms. Lauryn Hill a megastar. As it relates to trying to justify purposely not paying her fair share, though, it just comes across as annoying. In a very verbose and quite pedantic ranting posted on her Tumblr, Hill addressed recent reports that she opted out of filing tax returns in 2005, 2006, and 2007 despite earning $1.8 million in revenue. Each count can earn her a year in prison and $300,000 in fines.
In response to the reports, Ms. Hill wrote:
“For the past several years, I have remained what others would consider underground. I did this 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.”
She goes on to add that she left the “more mainstream and public life” in order to remove herself and her family ”from a lifestyle that required distortion and compromise as a means for maintaining it.” This was done to “insulate my family from the climate of hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism, and ageism that I was surrounded by.”
If you’re reading this like, “This sounds like a bunch of nothing as it relates to paying one’s taxes,” congratulations, you might have a future career with the IRS.
On the IRS’ response to Ms. Hill’s rationale:
“I conveyed all of this when questioned as to why I did not file taxes during this time period. Obviously, the danger I faced was not accepted as reasonable grounds for deferring my tax payments, as authorities, who despite being told all of this, still chose to pursue action against me, as opposed to finding an alternative solution.”
Unless I am mistaken, you are not in witness protection, Ms. Hill, so there is no immediate danger to you filling out a tax return like millions of other U.S. citizen who earn revenue, and in turn, have to fork over some of it to the IRS.
Maybe she’s still vexed about that lawsuit over her debut album. She could possibly still be angered by people continuing to hold her to a standard she herself helped create long ago. Whatever it is, this diatribe employs the dodge and deflect method to handling accountability — reeking of entitlement, and in certain aspects, hypocrisy.
Ms. Hill might have some legitimate points about the entertainment industry, but she benefits from the very machine she scolds.
There are plenty of non-famous people who have faced harsher consequences over unpaid taxes. Why on Earth should I feel bad about a celebrity millionaire who willfully chose not to pay up? Mind you, a millionaire with the means to escape a system she evidently finds so problematic.
Do you know what would happen if I told my creditors, “For the state of my mental well being, I’m going to refuse to pay you and instead temporarily relocate to Cabo, and collect my writing checks?” A diss record to my credit report.
If you hate the industry and “social cannibalism” (nice phrasing, though) so much, Lauryn, you can always leave it. Fans like me would be disappointed, but we needn’t burden you. We’ve been hearing this kind of rant on and off from you for several years now, and at this point, it’s stale. We get it already.
Yet, there are plenty of artists who hold similar views about the music industry who have managed to present their art to the masses and not be subjected to certain aspects that come with high popularity. See Prince and Sade. They made it work, so maybe soon you can, too, Ms. Hill.
For the record, she did note:
My intention has always been to get this situation rectified. When I was working consistently without being affected by the interferences mentioned above, I filed and paid my taxes.
If only she had just left it at this…right before she wrote a check.
What do you think?
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick