Wesley Snipes Must Pay IRS Millions, Tax Court Rules

Wesley Snipes attends the 'CHI-RAQ' New York Premiere - Getty- H 2018
Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic

Wesley Snipes must pay millions to the IRS after failing to convince a tax court that he doesn't have the assets to pay more than six figures. 

After the IRS tried to collect $23.5 million in back taxes, the actor asked for an offer-in-compromise which would let him settle his debt for less than the amount owed and for the notice of federal tax lien that was filed against his home to be withdrawn. He put up just shy of $850,000 in cash as an OIC, but the IRS rejected the offer and sustained its lien. So Snipes filed a petition asking the tax court to overturn the decision.

U.S. Tax Court Judge Kathleen Kerrigan on Thursday upheld the IRS decision finding Snipes failed to provide sufficient proof of his assets and financial condition and the settlement officer didn't abuse her discretion in rejecting his request. 

The lien was placed in August 2013, just a few months after the actor was released from prison following his conviction on related tax crimes. At the time, he owed $23.5 million for the years 2001 through 2006. Snipes then requested an installment agreement or OIC and made his cash payment. A settlement officer looked into his real estate holdings and assets but was unable to determine that he no longer owned certain properties that he claimed to have unloaded. Following the investigation, the officer determined that the reasonable amount that could be collected was about $17.5 million, but Snipes didn't increase his OIC offer. 

During the proceedings that followed, Snipes claimed his financial adviser had taken out loans and disposed of assets without his knowledge and offered up an affidavit from the adviser admitting to misconduct — but he didn't provide documentation showing the diversion of the assets. 

The settlement officer later reduced Snipes' estimated liability to $9.5 million, but Snipes stayed with his original offer. 

"Given the disparity between petitioner’s $842,061 OIC and the settlement officer’s calculation of $9,581,027 as his RCP, as well as petitioner’s inability to credibly document his assets, the settlement officer and her manager had ample justification to reject the offer," writes Kerrigan in the opinion, also noting that Snipes failed to show paying the bill would result in economic hardship. "Accordingly, we conclude that the settlement officer did not abuse her discretion in determining that acceptance of petitioner’s OIC was not in the best interest of the United States."