I’m the Taxman

It was American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin who famously stated, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except for death and taxes,” but it was George Harrison who said, “Now my advice for those who die/Declare the pennies on your eyes” a lyric featured in one of The Beatles most famous songs, Revolver’s opening track, entitled, “Taxman.”

Outside of the song being one of their most overtly Rock and R&B influenced songs on the album, making it a great opening track, it was unusual for Harrison to have an opening track on a Beatles record. Clearly the group was trying to make a statement.

At the time, Harrison, just 23 years old, was shocked at the taxation he and the rest of the group were facing, which was a 95% “supertax” for top earners in Great Britain. Despite their mega fame and equally mega album sales, The Beatles, individually and collectively, were on the brink of bankruptcy. So Harrison did what many artists did in such situations: He wrote a song about it.

Of course, The Beatles are far from the only musical artists out there to have precarious relationships with the taxman. The list is quite long, but here are a few of the most notable artists with, let’s say, unusual approaches to their respective tax situations.  

Willie Nelson

These days, Nelson, now nearing his 90s, is considered an American treasure. But, once upon a time, 1990, to be exact, this legendary consumer of cannabis and architect of Outlaw Country music found himself at odds with the Internal Revenue Service. 

The IRS discovered that Nelson owed millions of dollars in back taxes, to the tune of nearly $17 million dollars. Nelson’s lawyers were able to negotiate the tax bill down to $6 million, a significant reduction, but the singer just…didn’t pay it. 

Eventually, when it was clear that Nelson wasn’t going to pay, the Feds raided his home, seizing most of his property and assets, except for his beloved guitar, Trigger. 

Nelson’s legendary status no doubt helped him come to a most unusual agreement with the IRS: He would record and sell an album, entitled The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories, the proceeds of which would go toward his back taxes. A great idea, except it didn’t really work. 

In the short time after the album was released and Nelson was able to pay a portion of his back taxes, he settled with his former accounting firm for an undisclosed amount which was able to put him back on steady ground financially, continuing to solidify his place on the Mt. Rushmore of American Country music. 

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones have long been known for a number of things, most notably perhaps their distinctly British reinterpretation of the American Blues, as well as their libertine attitudes towards sex, drugs, and alcohol. 

A less explored trait of the band is their business acumen, a shrewd approach that has kept the band vital as a brand in the imagination of the music lovers for the better part of sixty years. 

Subjected to the same tax system as The Beatles, but probably more deeply scrutinized due to their image, The Rolling Stones found themselves in a precarious position in the early 1970s. 

Their guitarist and one of their main songwriters, Keith Richards, was succumbing to the trap of heroin addiction, and the Rolling Stones organization, one that was experiencing the peak of its popularity, was essentially broke. 

Facing dire straits, the band fled to the French Riviera at their business manager’s behest, not only dodging their tax liabilities, but also to record their Exile On Main Street album.

This relocation would be the first of many moves the band would make over the following years and decades, choosing locations to record, rehearse, and tour that would keep their tax obligations as low as possible. 

So low, in fact, that when the members of the group set up a will in the early 2000s in an effort to keep their heirs from squabbling over their fortune once they have passed, it was revealed that the Stones pay less than 2% in taxes. 

Reportedly, the band had been secretly investing their earnings in Holland and in the Caribbean, both of which are locations with fewer tax liabilities and wherein the latter there is no tax on royalties. Illegal? Not quite. Immoral? Debatable. A smart business move? It’s hard to deny!

The U2 organization seemed to think so. The Irish group now works with the Rolling Stones financial director, and upon the release of the Paradise Papers, it was revealed that the group’s lead singer, Bono, is an investor in a Lithuanian shopping mall. 

One more thing in life is certain: You have the right to an attorney!

That’s precisely why The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot exists — to help you protect your rights. It doesn’t matter if you’re a legendary rock star or country crooner, the tax system can be a complicated one, and you deserve guidance and defense when you’re being accused of a crime. 

If you or someone you care about has been accused of tax fraud, or any tax-related crimes, call on The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot. Our firm has fifty years of experience in helping folks just like you to protect your freedom. Call us today for your confidential consultation!