The Shrinking Tax Gap

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More Aggressive IRS Fights the Shrinking Tax Gap

In 2000, when CBS broadcast the first season of the reality TV show Survivor, Richard Hatch became an overnight star.

People across America knew him as the shirtless islander who had cooked up the perfect strategy to stay the longest on the island and win $1 million.

After winning Survivor, Hatch’s career took off. The man from Providence, R.I., returned to star in a number of other reality shows, including Survivor: The Amazon – The Reunion in 2003 and Battle of the Network Reality Stars this year.

Hatch’s strategy on Survivor and other television shows has been perfect. But he hasn’t had as much luck with the Internal Revenue Service.

Hatch, now 44, was indicted in September by a grand jury in Rhode Island. The 10-count indictment charges Hatch with tax evasion, tax fraud, and a scheme to defraud a charitable organization.

According to the indictment, Hatch hired two accounting firms to prepare his 2000 tax return. Both firms accounted for Hatch’s $1 million in Survivor winnings.

The first company estimated that Hatch owed $441,501 in taxes. The second estimated $234,807.

Hatch apparently didn’t like either number. According to the indictment, Hatch instructed one of the firms to put together a tax return that did not include his $1 million in winnings. That firm, authorities say, instructed Hatch that the return was for “informational” purposes only.

But the Survivor winner had another strategy: He filed that informational return, the indictment says.

And the federal government — surprise, surprise! — found out.

That’s not all.

While investigating Hatch’s alleged tax evasion, the government discovered other alleged crimes. According to the indictment, Hatch also:

Did not report to the IRS a $27,074 Pontiac Aztec given to him in 2001 as part of his Survivor prize.
Did not report $326,540 for appearances on a radio show.
Allegedly used $36,500 in charitable donations for personal use.
Allegedly used for personal purposes a $10,000 prize from The Weakest Link that was supposed to go to charity.
Recently convicted, Hatch faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the 10 counts.

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