(Note: This is part of an ongoing series breaking down the truth behind hip-hop's smoke and mirrors financial game. For previous entries, click here.)
There's no topic more boring than paying taxes, so it's no surprise that swagger-centric rappers always seem to forget to calculate the I.R.S. into their rhymes ("I made a million off a mixtape...before taxes"), and apparently their accounting plans. But here's the thing: famous rappers, you may be the man in hip-hop, but the I.R.S. does not give a f**k.
They...do...not..give...a f**k. You think you have money. The I.R.S. is dealing with companies like Exxon that cleared $50 billion in profits last year. I'm pretty sure they're not impressed by your leased Lamborghini.
Let me back up. I was inspired to crank out another edition of "Your Favorite Rapper is Poor" after two major tax cases went down this week. The first involves Swizz Beatz - it looks like Alicia's not just getting a new man and a baby, she's getting massive debt.
Popular VideoThis judge looked an inmate square in the eyes and did something that left the entire courtroom in tears:
After a detailed investigation, the I.R.S. determined that Swizz owes more than $2.2 million to the state of New York and the IRS for delinquent state and federal taxes from 2007-2009. "We have been discussing the issue with the government for years and are currently negotiating an amicable resolution of the dispute," Swizz's attorney said in response. Yeah, here's the thing. The I.R.S. doesn't do "amicable resolutions", they do "f**k you, pay me".
But Swizzy's far from alone. This week Mr. M.E.T.H.O.D. Man plead guilty to tax evasion after a nearly year-long investigation and paid a little more than $100,000 to get caught up on his taxes, plus additional penalties. Meth's explanation? "Myself, I'm a pothead. Sure, [the tax department] sent letters to my house saying, 'We need this money.' They started sending them in 2002. ... Here it is, 2009, and I never paid this sh** because I don't think like that!"
While I have to admit that's hilarious, it's also ridiculously stupid. I'm pretty sure Method isn't doing his own accounting, and if he is, he's back on that angel dust. How these rappers, and I could come up with twenty more examples, so consistently fail to pay their taxes is beyond me. Here's an idea. Take a few of those dollars you just spent on a new chain and hire an accountant. Hell, go down to H&R Block like the rest of us. Whatever. Just pay your taxes.
Ironically, these trials often serve as moments of truth for rappers. There's nothing like a trial to force rappers to be honest about their income. Much the same way we learned that Nas isn't making enough to pay $10,000 in child support a month after his finances were revealed during his divorce trial, during tax evasion trials rappers routinely and ironically argue that in fact they're almost completely broke, that they're not nearly as wealthy as the I.R.S. thinks, and that the charges should be dropped. (It's a hard legal argument to make when the prosecution can produce evidence of you wearing giant diamond-encrusted chains.)
The lesson? As always, rappers' paper stacking ways are an illusion, a smoke screen. They may have indeed, in rare cases, made more than $1 million in the previous year, but once you factor in the $2 million they owe the government, it's more like $1 million in debt. I seriously doubt any of our readers are millions of dollars in debt, which means that yes you, you ordinary reader guy or girl, probably technically have more money than Swizz Beatz.
And if you're a rapper reading this, believe it or not, the money you're making doesn't come to you in a parallel universe where tax law doesn't apply. Pay your taxes. Just do it. Please. I'm tired of reading these stories.