When Lauryn Hill shot to stardom with the Fugees in the early 1990s, there was no way of imagining she would serve jail time for tax evasion in 2013. Yet that’s exactly what the successful singer, songwriter, actress and producer faces after a court ruling handed down earlier this month.
Hill was sentenced on May 6th to serve three months at a federal prison camp. This will be followed by three months of home confinement to be monitored electronically and another nine months of monitored release. The rapper failed to pay taxes on $2.3 million in earnings and failed to file tax returns for several years. She pled guilty to three counts of tax evasion in 2012, each count could have led to a year in jail, but the judge instead gave the minimal sentence.
Problems with the financial policies within the recording industry led Hill into seclusion and semi-retirement several times throughout her career. The fact that the record labels and music conglomerates make hundreds of millions of dollars off her work while she receives a fraction of the profits was combined with a “climate of hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism and ageism” and led to her retreat. Between 2005 and 2007, she lived what she described as “very modestly” with her children and during that time period she failed to file tax returns in an attempt to maintain her privacy from the media and the industry.
Nathan Hochman, Hill’s attorney, argued that the singer should not serve jail time for her transgressions. He pointed out that many other celebrities have avoided jail time for tax evasion and that she has no previous legal problems and is the mother of six children. Prior to sentencing Hill paid $970,000 in taxes for the period in question.
Whether Hill will actually serve those three months in jail has yet to be determined. The singer has signed a new deal with Sony Worldwide Entertainment which will allow her to create her own label and she recently released her first new single in over a decade, “Neurotic Society,” in what many believe is an attempt to end her money problems.