No, this is not the title of Wesley’s newest movie: A federal court ordered the world-famous actor to start his three-year prison term for failing to file tax returns.
Prior to his conviction, Snipes had the swagger of a typical tax protestor, spouting off frivolous arguments about why he was not subject to the U.S. tax laws. After his trial, his lawyers bragged about their “victory” in securing only misdemeanor convictions.
But in the end, it is off to Club Fed, demonstrating once again, that when it comes to tax protestors, the feds will convict and imprison a big fish, along with the small fry.
Snipes received the maximum one year sentence for each of his three misdemeanor convictions. Snipes claimed he was misled by his tax advisors and was arrogant enough to file claims for millions in refunds, even though he paid no tax on $35 million of income during the six-year period involved in the case.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a scathing 35 page decision, unanimously upholding his conviction and mocking some of his bizarre assertions. The court noted that Snipes used phony tax protester arguments not only for his personal taxes, but with respect to his movie production companies and stopped paying payroll taxes for his employees.
At various times, Sniped claimed he was a “foreign diplomat” and a “fiduciary of God”, and, therefore, not subject to U.S. taxes. The appeals court held that the failure to file tax returns and pay approximately $17 million in taxes supported the district court’s three-year sentence.
After the Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction, the trial court judge ordered Snipes to jail, stating that “The Defendant Snipes had a fair trial; he has had a full, fair, and thorough review of his conviction and sentence by the Court of Appeals; and he has had a full, fair, and thorough review of his present claims, during all of which he has remained at liberty. The time has come for the judgment to be enforced.”
Snipes is the most famous of a long list of tax protesters who learned the hard way that criminal tax violations inevitably lead to significant prison time, as well as financial ruin.
The Lesson: If a super-action movie hero could not escape the clutches of the IRS and the federal court system, why would a mere mortal attempt it?