It was reported in 2009 that Whitaker owed $1.29 million in state and federal taxes. Whitaker is not the only Hollywood megastar to have tax problems. Actor Wesley Snipes is in prison until 2013 after being charged with failing to file tax returns for three years.
Chris Tucker was hit with some very serious tax problems himself, as the L.A. County Records Office showed that Tucker owed over $11 million in taxes up through 2006. Actor Nicolas Cage was also found to owe millions to the IRS.
The strength and scope of the IRS is nothing to play with, and some would argue that the state has too much power when it comes to wreaking havoc on the lives of its citizens. The truth is that the power is only going to grow as the federal government finds its coffers to be more and more financially strained over time. Celebrities can have the worst of tax problems because they've got the most money to play with. They are also the ones the feds are the most likely to come after if something goes wrong.
Tax expert Roni Deutch offers celebrities some quick advice on how to avoid serious tax problems:
1) Don't put all of your trust in your accountant. If something isn't done correctly, it's still your responsibility.
2) Make sure you review and sign all of your own tax documents.
3) Don't ignore tax problems if they arise. Dealing with the problem early can help you to avoid penalties and interest, which can double the original tax bill. Also, if a lien is filed, it becomes public record, allowing the media to dig into your personal life.
All that glitters isn't gold. The life of a celebrity may seem glamorous, and to some extent, it actually is. But in most cases, no matter how amazing things look on the outside, there's always a more complex story being told behind the walls of the celebrity castle.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.