May 15, 2013

Some ask: Should Lauryn Hill serve jail time?

Last Monday, Lauryn Hill was sentenced to time in federal prison for tax evasion. 3 months in prison, followed by 3 months of house arrest and a year of supervised release is the consequence for failing to pay over $1 million in taxes to the IRS.

She is meant to report to prison on July 8th, but some doubt that Lauryn Hill should serve jail time at all.

Pras, former member of the Fugees, is convinced that the 37-year-old won’t actually do the time.

“I doubt she’s going to do three months. Listen, if Lindsay Lohan doesn’t do any time then why would she do time?”

Tax evasion is a serious criminal offense, and is the illegal nonpayment or underpayment of tax. Not to be confused with tax avoidance, evasion refers to the efforts to avoid paying the IRS taxes due. People do so by declaring less income or gains than they actually earned, overstating deductions, or just refusing to file.

Not filing tax returns is perfectly legal for some individuals. If you earned less than $9,500 in 2012 you were exempt from having to report that income. But here’s a tip: Even if you’re able to forgo filing your taxes, consider it anyways. By reporting any taxed income at all, you’re eligible for thousands of dollars in tax credits that you otherwise would miss out on like the American Opportunity Tax Credit, or the Child Tax Credit.

Lauryn Hill didn’t have this problem, having earned approximately $2.3 million over a five-year period. Up until the most recent trials and sentencing, she refused to pay her back taxes, penalties, and fines.

So why does it seem unlikely that she’ll serve her full sentence? Though tax evasion is a criminal offense, it’s the first time Lauryn Hill has ever been to court. She’s fully paid her federal and state tax fees and penalties through 2009, and tax evasion is a non-violent, low-risk crime. Not to mention, other celebs have gotten away with much worse.