Former soul star Lauryn Hill has been jailed for three months after failing to pay £643,000 (around $1m) in taxes.
Hill, 37, who started singing with the Fugees as a teenager in the 1990s before releasing her multi-platinum 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, pleaded guilty last year to failing to pay tax on more than $1.8m dollars earned from 2005 to 2007.
The sentencing also took into account unpaid state and government taxes in 2008 and 2009 that brought the total earnings to about $2.3m dollars.
Despite having paid more than $900,000 in the past several days, Hill still owes interest and penalties, the US attorney’s office said.
Hill described how she failed to pay taxes during a period when she had dropped out of the music business to protect herself and her six children.
The Grammy-winning singer compared her experience in the music business to the slavery her ancestors endured.
“I am a child of former slaves who had a system imposed on them,” Hill told a US Magistrate. “I had an economic system imposed on me.”
She said the treatment she received while she was in the entertainment business led to her decision to leave it.
“There were veiled threats, there was blacklisting,” she said, without giving specifics. “I was told, ‘That’s how it goes, it comes with the territory’. I came to be perceived as a cash cow and not a person. When people capitalise on a persona, they forget there is a person in there.”
In addition to serving three months in prison, Hill must pay a $60,000 fine. After she is released she will be under parole supervision for a year, the first three months of which will be spent under home confinement.
The New Jersey resident had faced a maximum sentence of one year each on three counts of failing to file taxes. Her lawyer had sought probation, arguing that Hill’s charitable works, her family circumstances and the fact she paid back the taxes she owed should merit consideration.
Assistant US attorney Sandra Moser acknowledged Hill’s creative talent and work on behalf of impoverished children, but called her explanation for her actions “a parade of excuses centring around her feeling put upon” that did not exempt her from her responsibilities.
“She wasn’t interested in all those years in paying what she owed,” Ms Moser told the judge.
At the time of her arrest last year, Hill wrote a criticism rejecting pop culture’s “climate of hostility, false entitlement, manipulation, racial prejudice, sexism and ageism”.
Hill is to report to prison by July 8. It is not clear where she will serve her sentence. She did not comment after the sentencing.
She said in a recent post online that she has signed a recording contract with Sony.
“She is looking forward to putting her case behind her and getting back to her music and creating again,” lawyer Nathan Hochman said.