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Mo'Nique owes nearly $400,000 in federal taxes

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Oscar-winning actress Mo'Nique owes $389,904.98 to the federal government in unpaid taxes.

The government filed the lien on May 7, 2016 in Gwinnett County. The clerk said as of May 24, 2016, the lien had not been paid.

I can't take credit for this one. I first saw it on Michelle's Brown's Straight From the A though it appears the Daily Mail broke the story. But to ensure I had the information correct, I drove over the Gwinnett Tax Commissioner's office and picked up the paperwork myself.

According to the lien, she and her husband Sidney Hicks owe $201,695.99 in taxes in calendar year 2013 and $188,208 in calendar year 2014.

What is a tax lien? The IRS definition: "A federal tax lien is the government’s legal claim against your property when you neglect or fail to pay a tax debt."

It continues: "A lien attaches to all of your assets (such as property, securities, vehicles) and to future assets acquired during the duration of the lien."

In other words, the IRS has a lot of leverage once a lien is in place. And if Monique tries to buy property in the future, the federal government will be able to intercede and try to nab what they are owed.

Brian Douglas, an Atlanta real estate attorney, said the IRS could even levy bank accounts.

What assets does Monique have? Hard to say. The address on the lien is in Duluth but it's not clear if she even lives there now though it's probably her last known address. She does not actually own the home, Douglas said, although the Daily Mail claimed she did. (A couple from Buford does.)

He said it's unlikely Monique was in the dark about the situation before the lien was in place. The IRS tends to send a lot of notices in the mail before this happens.

Douglas said she appears to be an independent contractor, meaning she has to pay the taxes herself. Salaried employees usually have much of their taxes taken out before they even see a check.

"The IRS doesn't really want to take your house or levy your accounts," Douglas said. "The IRS would rather work out a payment plan or make some arrangement to have the taxes paid off. Celebrities and athletes can have ups and downs in their income unlike regular W2 employees. I've seen it happen with other celebrities. They release an album and make a bunch of money and live off of it until the next one. The cycle of paying bills can get complicated."

He said if a lien is placed on somebody, "it usually means you've been straight up ignoring the IRS. You're not trying to work it out with them."

Douglas said based on the taxes they owed, she earned at least $1 million  over 2013 and 2014,even after deductions.

Although Mo'Nique won an Oscar in 2010 for best supporting actress in "Precious," she has had relatively few film and TV roles since then. And her BET talk show was cancelled in 2011. 

The actress told Hollywood Reporter last year she learned from "Empire" producer Lee Daniels that she had been "blackballed" by Hollywood for having a reputation of being "tacky" and "difficult." Her husband Sidney, who is a producer and manager, has also been called difficult, she said.

Monique can earn income by doing stand-up dates. She has only four listed at Ticketmaster in November in Oxnard, Calif.

After a dry spell between 2010 and 2013, she starred in an independent film "Blackbird" in 2014. Last year, she was in two films: the well-received HBO film "Bessie" starring Queen Latifah and "Interwoven." IMDB says she's completed "Almost Christmas" starring Gabrielle Union, Nicole Ari Parker, Danny Glover, Omar Epps, Kimberly Elise, J.B. Smoove  and Jesse T. Usher. That comedy, shot in Atlanta last year, comes out this November. She plays Aunt May and throws out the sass in the trailer below. She is also now in pre-production for a film called "War Angel: The Awakening."

I recently saw her at the Atlanta Ultimate Women's Expo at the Georgia World Congress Center, where she spoke for 30 minutes. She didn't address her financial situation but she strongly implied she left her BET talk show five years ago over money.

“I’ll return to television when it makes sense," she said on stage last month. "There were choices and decisions I had to make as a black female entertainer that a lot of people couldn’t understand but what I have to say was we cannot keep accepting these wages, we cannot keep accepting this disrespect, we cannot keep accepting the mistreatment… I’ll be back when it makes sense.”


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.