Pay Your Taxes: A Cautionary Tale

Play associated audio

When IRS agents raided the house of rapper Young Buck, they seized all his things: his white leather dining chairs, his watches, his craps table, his tattoo kit. Even his refrigerator. The Nashville artist, who was once part of 50 Cent's G-Unit, owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes.

His lawyer, Robin Mitchell Joyce, said he thought Young Buck's taxes were being handled by his business manager. They weren't.

I went to another business manager to see what might have gone awry-- Horace Madison, who manages music moguls like Lil Wayne. "This is not a hip hop thing," he points out. "This is a music industry thing."

Musicians, unlike most people, don't get a regular paycheck, with taxes withheld for them. "Most entertainers and musicians receive their money on a gross level, with no taxes taken out."

Big stars can earn more than a million dollars in a couple of months. But they have a lot of expenses — lights, stage, tour bus, entourage.

And after expenses, of course, there's taxes. Every quarter. Madison says that if you made a half a million dollars in 3 months, "You need to make an estimated tax payment of $200,000."

On top of that, if you're an entertainer, what qualifies as a business expense can seem really murky. Your whole lifestyle is not tax deductible.

Madison has tried to deduct watches, arguing that it's a necessary business expense for his client to have a certain look. The CPAs at his company threw it back.

The IRS loaned Young Buck his refrigerator back, along with a few other things. But most of his stuff is still stored in an undisclosed location. His music catalog is up for sale on May 14. Even the rights to the name "Young Buck" might be sold.

Many musicians have been in his situation. After Willie Nelson's home was raided by the IRS 20 years ago, Nelson made an album called "The IRS tapes." He paid back some of the debt that way.

For More: Listen to our playlist of musicians who didn't pay their taxes.

NPR researchers JoElla Straley and Barbie Keiser contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Colson Whitehead On The Importance Of Historical Fiction In Tumultuous Times

Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.

NPR

'Cup Noodles' Turns 45: A Closer Look At The Revolutionary Ramen Creation

Today instant ramen is consumed in at least 80 countries — with culturally specific adaptations. The U.S., for instance, gets shorter noodles, because Americans don't slurp them up like the Japanese.
WAMU 88.5

Rating The United States On Child Care

A majority of parents in the U.S. work outside the home. That means about 12 million children across the country require care. A new report ranks states on cost, quality and availability of child care - and says nobody is getting it right.

NPR

Phone Emergency Alerts Will Begin Including Links, Phone Numbers

Regulators have voted to expand cellphone alerts to 360 characters from the previous cutoff at 90, and to begin including clickable URLs and phone numbers over the next year or so. But no photos, yet.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.