Tax Season

10 celebrities who tried to dodge the taxman

Despite the recent talk of Canada's efforts to crack down on tax evasion, the truth is that most Canadians resign themselves to the certainty of death and taxes. But there are those around the world who take exception to giving the taxman his share of their earnings and sometimes end up on the wrong side of the law. Here's a list of 10 high-profile cases.

From actors to politicians, many public figures have tried to avoid paying taxes

Gérard Depardieu was presented with Russian citizenship and a passport by President Vladimir Putin, right, in January, allowing the actor to avoid paying a 75 per cent tax the French government wanted to impose on the rich. (Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty)

Most Canadians resign themselves to the certainty of death and taxes, but there are those around the world who take exception to giving the taxman his share of their earnings and sometimes end up on the wrong side of the law. Here's a list of 10 high-profile cases.

1. Walter Anderson — A telecommunications entrepreneur, Anderson was convicted in 2005 of the largest tax evasion scheme in U.S. history for using a string of offshore companies to hide income on which he owed more than $200 million US in taxes.

2. Gérard Depardieu  — The French actor moved to a Belgian village and became a Russian citizen all in order to avoid the French government's attempts to impose a 75 per cent tax on those earning more than one million euros (about $1.4 million). Russian President Vladimir Putin personally presented him with a Russian passport in January in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Depardieu insists he is no tax evader — he has paid 145 million euros (about $185 million) in taxes during his lifetime. The wealth tax was ultimately rejected by France's Constitutional Court but could potentially be resurrected in a different form.

3. Paul Hogan — The Crocodile Dundee actor always denied engaging in tax evasion but ended up reaching a settlement last year with the Australian Taxation Office, which accused him and colleague John Cornell of using offshore tax havens to avoid paying nearly $153 million, even temporarily banning him from leaving the country.

4. Wesley Snipes — The U.S. star of the Blade film trilogy was sentenced to three years in federal prison for failing to file income tax returns dating back to 1998 and owing $17 million. He's due to be released this summer.

5. Willie Nelson — The singer received a bill for $16.7 million in back taxes in 1990. He responded by releasing the album, The IRS Tapes: Who Will Buy My Memories? His fans answered the question by buying up at auction the personal assets the government had seized and promptly giving them back to the country singer. Nelson was back in the black by 1993.

6. Silvio Berlusconi — The former Italian premier was convicted last year of tax fraud of almost $13 million and sentenced to four years in prison after inflating the price his media empire paid for TV rights to U.S. movies and pocketing the difference.

7. Leona Helmsley — The late New York hotel mogul, nicknamed the "Queen of Mean," is best remembered for her statement that "only the little people pay taxes." She was accused of evading tax to the tune of several million dollars and sentenced in 1989 to 16 years in prison — but served only 19 months, plus an additional two years under house arrest.

8. Nicolas Cage — The U.S. Internal Revenue Service filed a tax lien against the actor in July 2009 for $6.2 million. He had been earlier accused of under-reporting income and inappropriately claiming such items as his personal jet.

9. Tolis Voskopoulos — This once-popular Greek singer was found to have evaded $7.5 million in taxes but the issue of how much money he will pay in penalties is still before the Greek courts. His wife, Angela Gerekou, has already paid her penalty, losing her job as the country's deputy culture minister when the charges were first announced three years ago.

10. Al Capone — This infamous gangster was brought down not because of convictions for his more serious crimes, such as leading an organized crime syndicate in Chicago in the 1920s, but for evading taxes amounting to $215,080.48 US — about $2.8 million today. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison and served about seven and a half years of his sentence and paid all of the outstanding taxes and fines before being released on parole in 1939.

With files from The Associated Press