Rock Stars Who Owed Back Taxes

Behind the Music: Back Taxes

Ask any guy what his dream job is and rock star is sure to make the list. Life doesn’t get any better when you’re making big bucks playing music in front of thousands of people.

But while being an entertainer can be fun, it’s still a job – with taxes to pay.

Entertainers are no exception when it comes to the financial responsibilities everyone else faces.

IRS agents may don black leather pants and hip jackets at weekend concerts, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less lenient to rock stars who’ve come to owe back tax debt to the IRS. Here’s a look at a few rock stars who got into tax trouble with Uncle Sam.

  • Singer Vince Neil rocked his vocal chords for 80s rock band Motley Crue. But his vocal chords weren’t enough to get rid of the more than $370,000 in back tax debt he ended up owing the IRS, which filed a lien against him.
  • Rex “Rocker” Brown played bass guitar for Pantera. The heavy metal band was a 1990’s success, but he later ended up owing nearly $450,000 in back taxes to the IRS. In a “Vulgar Display of Power,” IRS agents filed five liens against him.
  • Sugar Ray found success as a softer rock band in the late 1990’s, but their bass player Murphy Karges couldn’t shake a $57,000 IRS lien. Looks like he could have used the help of a tax professional.
  • But it’s not just rock musicians who ran into tax trouble. Country music stars Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell also had their fair share of run ins with the tax man. Nelson lost almost everything when the IRS auctioned off his property in 1997 for owing $6 million in back taxes and $10 million in penalties. He was still able to strum his guitar, as he hid it from IRS agents. Campbell came to owe the IRS $113,000 and went on a farewell tour.

After the music stops and the money’s spent, musicians of all stripes can find themselves in hot water. A couple hit singles can bring a little bit of fortune, but financial mismanagement or a hard partying lifestyle can make taxes an afterthought.

Musicians may be in a better position to pay off their back taxes with royalties from still-played radio hits, but you don’t need a one hit wonder to get your taxes in order. With the help of a tax professional or tax attorney, you can write a tune that’s music to the IRS’s ears.

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