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Richard Hatch, the first million-dollar winner of the reality television show Survivor was convicted of three counts of filing false tax returns in early 2006. He was sentenced to more than four years in prison, but appealed his conviction.

Now this guy is no rocket scientist. He won a million dollars on a hugely popular show, but then didn't report it as income on his tax return. Duh. His defense? He said he thought that the producers of Survivor had paid the taxes on the prize. Hatch claimed that producers promised to pay the taxes on his prize if he didn't tell the world that food had been smuggled to a contestant during the taping of the show. (Sure....)

He lost that argument then, and he lost it again last week. The tax court upheld his conviction and his sentence, even though he complained it was too harsh. So let that be a lesson to you... if you very publicly win lots of money, report it on your taxes. I promise you that the IRS is on the lookout for big prize winners who don't report their winnings.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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