By Teresa Ambord
Last month, Grammy-winner Lauryn Hill asked the judge in her tax evasion case for probation. Not because she is a celebrity but because she wanted to work in order to pay the taxes she admitted owing. In fact, the night before her court date for sentencing, Hill did pay every penny of the taxes, amounting to more than $900,000. That included $504,000 in back taxes as well as state taxes and penalties (her attorney stated that though the tax is fully paid, Hill still owes interest and penalties on the debt). In spite of the prompt payment, when she appeared in a New Jersey federal court on May 6, the sentence handed down was three months in prison, three months home confinement, plus a $60,000 fine in addition to any other amounts still owed.
Hill's attorney, Nathan Hochman was asked by CNN reporters if he was disappointed in the sentence.
"When the government is asking for 36 months and the judge gives three months, I think the judge gave a fair and reasonable sentence. I think the judge took into account the incredible person that Miss Hill is, her contribution to society, the fact that she didn't have any criminal record, she fully accepted responsibility for her actions, that she plead guilty without a plea agreement, then fully paid back not just the taxes that she owed, but all the taxes that were part of this time period, and did it before sentencing."
Most of the income on which Hill owed back taxes was from music and film royalties earned from 2005 to 2007. However the case also involved income from 2008 and 2009 (no tax returns were filed for these years either), and taxes owed to the state of New Jersey.
Hill plead guilty last year to the charges of tax evasion, knowing she could face a year in prison for each count. Then in April 2013, US Magistrate Court Judge Madeline Cox Arleo gave Hill two weeks to pay the taxes before being sentenced, which is exactly what the singer did. A Reuters.com report said at the time the two weeks extension was granted, Hill and Hochman told reporters they planned to take to a loan of $650,000, secured by two of her properties, to help pay the taxes owed.
Hill also signed a deal with Sony Records for a new album. Although the deal helped her pay the tax bill, she was not happy that it required the immediate release of one song (Neurotic Society available as of last week on iTunes). Her looming court date and the possibility of jail time made the quick release a necessary part of the negotiation.
Hill will report to prison on July 8.