Lauryn Hill Fought A Good Fight, But The IRS Doesn’t Play Fair

Lauryn Hill might win some, but she just lost one costly battle with Captain America.

The eight-time Grammy Award–winning singer was sentenced Monday to three months in federal prison, followed by three months of home confinement with electronic monitoring, for failure to pay taxes on more than $2 million in earnings.

Hill must serve a year of supervised release and pay a $60,000 fine in addition to paying her tax debt to the IRS.

Hill, 37, stormed the music scene as the multifaceted female member of The Fugees. The chocolate-skinned, musical firecracker gained fame as a dope hip-hop lyricist and soulful songstress. Her 1998 solo debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, went on to sell over 19 million copies worldwide, and earned her five Grammy Awards, including the award for Album of the Year. She broke the record for first-week sales by a female artist, moving 422,624 copies.

That was the pinnacle of Hill’s career. Who knew her life would spiral into a soap opera of one strange turn after another.

Despite her success, her personal life has been filled with turmoil, long hiatuses from making music, relationship troubles and, at times, bizarre behavior at shows. Her tumultuous relationship with Rohan Marley, the son of reggae legend Bob Marley, has produced five children and required much expended emotion.

Hill has been accused of being selfish, delusional, emotionally unstable and downright crazy. Her reasons for not filing income taxes range from lack of money due to the “enslaving” practices of her record label, to her explanation that she dropped out of the music business because her family was in danger.

Most news outlets are painting her as a woman living in the clouds, high off celebrity life and a sense of entitlement – the very things she preaches against in her music and devalues in her lifestyle. 

Attorney Damien Bevelle was at Hill’s sentencing and says he is “intimately familiar with the details of the case.” Bevelle says he understands the complexities of the music game and how artists can get caught up in the whirlwind. He insists Hill, who admitted she didn’t pay taxes on about $818,000 earned in 2005, $222,000 in 2006 and $761,000 in 2007, was not motivated by greed.

“Ms. Hill spoke eloquently in court, taking responsibility for her negligence,” Bevelle continued, “but also offering an explanation that I felt was sincere and somewhat understandable (if you understand the ‘matrix’ that is the entertainment/music business). What I can say is Ms. Hill’s situation was not the result of extravagant living or excess spending. There are other issues at play that I cannot divulge.”

Bevelle also feels Hill is being misrepresented by media types who aren’t privy to the extenuating circumstances of her case.   

 “I am not defending Ms. Hill for not filing her tax returns. What I am defending or challenging, is a mischaracterization of her character with respect to this situation based on the facts as I know them to be.  All this rhetoric about her being ‘delusional’ is simply not in accord with facts.

“Ms. Hill did not blame anyone else, she took responsibility for having not filed her returns and she is now suffering the consequences of that conscious decision.”

Actually, Hill blames the biz that created her wealth, and as she got older, the politics of the game turned her off. 

“This has been a 10+ year battle, for a long time played out behind closed doors, but now in front of the public eye,” Hill told “This is an old conflict between art and commerce… free minds, and minds that are perhaps overly tethered to structure. This is about inequity, and the resulting disenfranchisement caused by it.”

Unfortunately, nobody wins philosophical disputes with Uncle Sam. Hill’s learning that the hard way.


Back to top