APR&B singer Lauryn Hill is weeks away from landing in federal prison if she can't come up with $500,000 she owes in federal income taxes.
At a sentencing hearing Monday, a New Jersey judge gave the Fugees front woman and mother of six an extra two weeks to come up with the cash.
“This is not someone who stands before the court penniless,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo said at the hearing. "This is a criminal matter. Actions speak louder than words, and there has been no effort here to pay these taxes."
It's been nearly a year since Hill was first arrested for three misdemeanor counts of federal tax evasion, a crime that could earn her as many as three years in federal prison.
She pleaded guilty to claims she hadn't filed income taxes between 2005 and 2007, a period in which she earned a reported $1.8 million.
At the time, Hill promised to pay $554,000 in federal taxes owed. So far, she's only paid $50,000 and still owes another $400,000 or so in state taxes.
Hill is not exactly destitute.
She co-headlined a tour as a solo act with hip-hop star Nas less than a year ago, and though reviews were pretty awful , she still managed to ink a reported $1 million recording deal for five new songs.
So why not pay her tax tab and be done with it?
The answer is in a 1200-word statement the singer released online shortly after her arrest in June.
Hill gives a long list of complaints about the exploitative music industry, what she calls a climate of " hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism and ageism."
Finally she decided she'd had enough: " Having put the lives and needs of other people before my own for multiple years, and having made hundreds of millions of dollars for certain institutions, under complex and sometimes severe circumstances, I began to require growth and more equitable treatment, but was met with resistance."
She retreated to a simpler life and stopped paying taxes as a form of civil disobedience: " I also embraced my right to resist a system intentionally opposing my right to whole and integral survival."
But the IRS didn't see things her way:
"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.
"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. This only stopped when it was necessary to withdraw from society, in order to guarantee the safety and well-being of myself and my family."
To avoid penalties for tax evasion, taxpayers must prove they were could not pay due to "reasonable cause and not willful neglect."
Thanks to Hill's little online manifesto, she basically admits to neglecting her taxes on purpose.
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