"Take, say, taxes. Everybody's against taxes. In a functioning democracy you'd be in favor of them. April 15th would be a day of celebration. You're getting together to fund the programs that you decided on." --Noam Chomsky
"Stars -- they're just like US!" -- US Weekly
We're far from the ideal democracy described by Noam Chomsky, in which ordinary citizens feel involved in policy decisions and happily fund the society they've built together. We live, instead, in an US Weekly world, where the lives of celebrities command as much attention as the workings of government, if not more. And stars are indeed like us, only more so, in their alienation from communal enterprise, if a reluctance to pay taxes is any indication.
Gallery: Celebrity Tax Delinquents
Stephen Baldwin is the latest famous person to end up in the news for neglecting his civic duty in this fashion. The star of The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000) and Celebrity Big Brother 2010 was arrested in December 2012 and charged with failing to pay more than $350,000 in New York state income taxes; Baldwin apparently failed to file in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Baldwin did file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, and also filed a lawsuit against Kevin Coster in 2010, alleging that he was cheated out of profits from oil-separating technology using during the BP Gulf spill cleanup. Baldwin sought $3.8 million; he lost the case and was awarded nothing.
By pleading guilty Friday morning to one count of repeated failure to file -- a class "E" felony -- Baldwin avoided prison time. He has already paid the state $100,000 in restitution and has agreed to shell out an additional $300,000 before his sentencing on July 19.
Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe took a harsh view of the youngest Baldwin brother's actions: "Individuals who attempt to steal from the public are stealing from the pockets of every New Yorker. Regardless of social status or income level, my office is committed to pursuing criminals who purposefully cheat the government and law-abiding taxpayers."
A USA Today report, "Celebrities are often in debt to the tax man," was somewhat more sympathetic to the plight of famous tax delinquents, explaining that "celebrities and entertainers -- unlike most taxpayers -- often have huge incomes that vary wildly from year to year -- an easy recipe for tax trouble.
A review of famous names recently in the papers for owing the IRS turns up a few patterns. Tax scofflaw celebrities aren't usually the sort of figures known as "A-Listers" -- or, if they are, like Lil Wayne, they tend to be somewhere past their prime. Rap, reality television, and claims of financial mismanagement by others also recur. There's a significant amount of marital trouble in these lives as well.
(Hat tip to Accounting Today, which keeps a running tally of "Celebrity Tax Foibles.")