TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / General Tax Tips / Reality Star Tax Blunders

Reality Star Tax Blunders

Updated for Tax Year 2015


OVERVIEW

Tax blunders can be made by anyone, from the average taxpayer to television stars. However, when you're a reality star, your finances often make front-page news. Since many reality stars are newly wealthy, they can be particularly vulnerable to financial missteps, since they may not be well versed with the tax requirements that arise from a cash windfall.

Perhaps the most famous reality star with tax issues is Richard Hatch, the winner of the first "Survivor" season. However, the lessons to be learned from the following reality star tax blunders can apply to many taxpayers.


Richard Hatch

Richard Hatch Survivor Contestant

Richard Hatch, the first "Survivor" winner, was very publicly awarded a $1 million prize for snagging the show's top spot. However, he was ultimately indicted and convicted of "attempting to evade taxes" by not reporting approximately $1.4 million in income related to his win.

Hatch was also accused of using funds from charitable donations for personal use. Failing to include all of your income on your taxes is a huge no-no with the IRS, and can result in criminal penalties. In Richard Hatch's case, the result was a 51-month prison sentence.

Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino

Mike The Situation from Jersey Shore

Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, one of the stars of "Jersey Shore," was indicted on tax evasion charges, along with his brother, for allegedly filing false tax returns in 2010, 2011 and 2012. According to the indictment, the brothers attempted to obscure nearly $9 million in income on their returns. Their fate will be decided after his 2015 trial concludes.

Teresa Giudice

Teresa Giudice

Teresa Giudice starred on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" before facing jail time for tax fraud. Along with her husband Giuseppe, Teresa Giudice was indicted for submitting fraudulent loan and mortgage applications and using false W-2 forms to file fabricated tax returns. Teresa Giudice was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison, while Giuseppe received a 41-month term.

NeNe Leakes

NeNe Leakes

Not all celebrity tax problems result in prison time. NeNe Leakes, another veteran of the "Real Housewives" franchise, was hit with a $25,212 tax lien in 2013 for failure to pay thousands in back taxes. Georgia court documents also showed that her husband Gregg Leakes owed $130,000 in federal and state taxes.

Jacqueline Laurita

Jacqueline Laurita

Star of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," Jacqueline Laurita was slapped with two tax liens in 2013, one for $85,127 and another for a whopping $338,337. In both cases, it seems the reality star simply failed to pay what she owed, and interest and penalties boosted the amount significantly.

The Braxtons

The Braxtons

Singer and reality TV star Toni Braxton had to file bankruptcy in 2010 in part due to a $396,000 tax lien filed against her by the IRS for unpaid taxes. Her brother-in-law Vincent Herbert, married to her "Braxton Family Values" co-star and sister Tamar, was slapped with a tax lien of more than $3 million in 2014.

Blunders and Lessons

Tax file folders

Whether through hubris or ignorance or a combination of the two, all of these reality stars learned the hard way that with financial success comes financial obligations. While the circumstances behind each of these reality star tax blunders vary, the basic lessons behind them are simple.

When you earn income, you have to report it on your tax return, you must pay all the tax you owe, and you can't file fraudulent documents or use inaccurate information to get a loan. Whether you're a celebrity or an average taxpayer, the only way to avoid fines and jail time is to report what you earn and pay what you owe.

Get every deduction you deserve

TurboTax Deluxe searches more than 350 tax deductions and credits so you get your maximum refund, guaranteed.

For only $54.99*
Start for Free

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.


Security is built into everything we do
Here's how
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • Filing Deadline: IRS filing deadline for tax year 2015 is April 18, 2016 (except for residents of Massachusetts or Maine, where the IRS filing deadline for tax year 2015 is April 19, 2016).
  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Free 1040EZ/A + Free State offer only available with TurboTax Federal Free Edition; Offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase expected 3/18/16. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for efiling state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase expected 3/18/16. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with efile and direct deposit; tax refund timeframes will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: A $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except the TurboTax Home & Business/QuickBooks Self-Employed bundle offers.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice service is available via phone for your toughest tax questions; fees may apply. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2014 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.