The Worst Tax Problems in Rock

Millennials have always wondered why we were taught that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell instead of how to do our taxes—and it looks like we weren’t the only ones who missed the lesson in taxes.

Just because they’re stars doesn’t mean they know how it works. Rock ‘n’ roll forerunners like Chuck Berry and Ozzy Osbourne are only a couple of the music world’s biggest badasses to not know how to file taxes. These big time money makers ended up owing millions in back taxes. Go ahead and idolize them for their music, but maybe don’t follow them in their footsteps this tax season.

It just goes to show you that even if you make tons of money and the public adores you, the IRS will still go after you.

Ozzy Osbourne

The famous metal family messed up their taxes for 2008-2009 somehow and owed $1.7 million in tax debts for 2011 because of it. Goes to show even a rockstar/ reality TV show star has trouble with their forms.

The Rolling Stones

Back in the ‘70s, British taxes would take around 95 percent of the income for ultra-wealthy musicians, so many bands would avoid their taxes and eventually get “tax exiled.” The Rolling Stones were one of the first. Mick, Keith and the boys fled France and recorded Exile On Main Street. Other big time musical exiles include David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Cat Stevens and Marc Bolan.


Even though they technically didn’t do anything illegal, this “righteous” band has been avoiding paying their taxes for years by filing in a lower-tax country.


Unlike the rest of the musicians on this list, DMX actually created a whole scheme to avoid paying taxes. Last year he was prosecuted for $1.7 million owed to the IRS.

Willie Nelson

He owed over $16 million to the IRS in tax debt in 1990. It was more than he could handle, so he just gave them the rights to the album The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories?.

Chuck Berry

The rock ‘n’ roll pioneer spent four months in prison and 1,000 hours in community service after he owed the IRS $200,000 in taxes back in 1979.

Aaron Carter

As a rising child pop star his finances were terribly missed managed and he owed the IRS more than a $1 million in 2009.

Lauryn Hill

In 2013 she pleaded guilty to owing the IRS over $1.5 million. But she did say in “Mr. Intentional” that the only wealth she has is not material, so they should’ve seen that coming.

James Brown

The soul star was known for his crazy stunts towards the end of his career, but in the late ‘60s, when his career was peaking, the IRS charged him with $4.5 million in unpaid taxes. They’d eventually seize over half of his assets.

Jerry Lee Lewis

Another pioneer rocker, he owed the IRS around $560,000 in tax debt in 1984—but being the creative man he is, cut a deal by creating a phone line that charged called $2.75 a minute to hear stories about Lewis’ life.

Lil’ Kim

Even though she apparently used to work for tax preparers at H&R Block, Lil’ Kim still ended up owing taxes every year from 2002-2009. She was charged nearly $1 million in back taxes.