April means tax filing season is upon us – and even celebrities can’t escape it.
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Rapper DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, was sentenced Wednesday in Manhattan federal court to one year in prison after pleading guilty to $1.7 million in tax fraud. Prosecutors said he hid his income in bank accounts held by his friends and business manager and even threatened to quit appearing on a reality TV show unless his paycheck did not withhold any taxes.
“Today’s sentence shows that star power does not entitle people to a free pass,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. “Together with our partners at the IRS, we will vigorously enforce our tax laws to make sure that people pay their fair share.”
DMX is not the only public figure to run afoul of Uncle Sam in the runup to tax filing deadline this month. Pop star Cardi B ranted on Instagram about her hefty tax bill, which she estimated at 40 percent of her income. But the singer, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, said she’s seen little return: New York streets remain dirty, rats run around the subway, and she claimed that prisoners only receive two pairs of underwear.
“Uncle Sam, I want to know what you doing with my f—– tax money. You know what I’m saying,” she vented. Later, she added, “I want receipts. I want everything.”
Meanwhile, rocker Courtney Love continued her long tussle with the IRS. Celebrity news sites revealed this week that the former lead singer of “Hole” still owed more than half a million dollars in unpaid taxes. A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Court confirmed to CNBC that a $568,674 tax lien was filed against Love’s property in Malibu on Dec. 28. Representatives for Love did not respond to requests for comment.
Trying to escape the IRS is usually an exercise in futility. According to government statistics, the agency typically wins a conviction in more than 90 percent of the cases it pursues. In 2016, the average sentence imposed was nearly two and a half years.
For DMX, that makes his one-year prison term seem a little less onerous. He was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $2,292 in restitution to the IRS. His attorney, Murray Richman, said they were pleased with the decision.
“He recognizes that it was a fair and appropriate sentence under the circumstances and he has instructed me to say so,” Richman told reporters after the sentencing. “No question about it.”
Richman said DMX is still battling substance abuse and argued that the best way for the rapper to pay back the government would be for him to get back in the studio to make music. DMX was often emotional in court on Wednesday, choking up as he looked back at family who attended the sentencing. He also played a video of his song “Slippin'” in his defense.
I’m slippin’, I’m fallin’, I gots to get up
Get me back on my feet so I can tear s— up
“What’s the big thing that holds people back from the ghetto? The lack of experience and lack of knowledge,” Richman said. “Once that opportunity is given they will grow and continue to grow, that’s the point we are making.”
CNBC’s Jim Forkin contributed to this report.