In the 1990s and 2000s actor Wesley Snipes was on the fast track in Hollywood — until he was derailed by a prison sentence for tax evasion.
Already an established film actor, Snipes had his greatest box office success with the “Blade” trilogy, starting in 1998. The first film in the series grossed $150 million worldwide; it was followed by “Blade II” and “Blade: Trinity.”
Between 1999 and 2004, the movie star pulled in about $40 million, Newsweek reported. Then the IRS said he owed them millions.
In August 2006, Snipes came face-to-face with a major IRS debt. The tax agency said he owed $23.5 million over outstanding taxes for the years 1999 to 2004. Snipes offered to pay about $842,000 to help clear his $23.5 million debt, but the IRS declined, Newsweek reported.
Snipes was charged with one count of conspiring to defraud the United States, along with six counts of willfully failing to file federal income tax returns by their filing dates.
According to the IRS, Snipes, who aligned himself with tax protesters, filed a false amended return, including a false tax refund claim of over $4 million for the year 1996, and a false amended return, including a false tax refund claim of over $7.3 million for the year 1997. The government alleged that Snipes attempted to obtain fraudulent tax refunds using a tax protester theory called the “861 argument” that the domestic income of U.S. citizens and residents is not taxable).
On February 1, 2008, the actor was found guilty on three misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal income tax returns from 2001 to 2006 (and acquitted on three other “failure to file” charges) . Then on, April 24, 2008, Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison and fined $5 million. The actor appealed, but in 2010 the appeal was denied and Snipes began his sentence at a federal prison in December 2010. He was released in April 2013.
Snipes later said interview with The Guardian, serving prison time for tax evasion made his a “better person.”
“I hope I came out a better person,” he said.
“I came out a clearer person,” Snipes explained. “Clearer on my values, clearer on my purpose, clearer about my relationship with my ancestors and the great god and the great goddess above, and clearer on what I was going to do once I had my freedom back.”
Back to Work
Snipes is on the pathway to financial recovery since his 2013 release from the McKean Federal Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania.
Out of the gate, Snipes starred in “The Expendables 3” (2014) and later in Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” (2015). The “Blade” actor was also in a couple of movies starring lead man Eddie Murphy: “Dolemite Is My Name” and the sequel “Coming 2 America.”
Today, the 60-year-old actor is worth $10 million.
Although there are no star roles the actor is currently slated to play, according to IMDb, there are rumors that Snipes will play a cameo in the new Marvel Cinematic Universe Blade reboot. Some reports suggests he will return as vampire slayer for a continuation after the iconic trilogy.
It appears that Snipes continues to rebound from his troubled tax, with no plans to stop expanding his wealth.