Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino and his brother/manager Marc Sorrentingo were indicted last week for allegedly failing to pay taxes on $8.9 million of income, according to a press release issued by the Department of Justice.   In addition to substantive tax counts, the government has charged the brothers with conspiracy.  Among other things, the scheme is alleged to include claiming personal expenses as business deductions.  In addition to false personal returns, Michael Sorrentino is alleged to have failed to file a return for 2011, when he allegedly received almost $2 million in income.

As noted by the Washington Post, this is part of a long line of reality stars with financial and tax problems.  Easily the first that springs to mind is Richard Hatch, the original winner of “Survivor.”

Although there are a host of mistakes that were obviously made leading to these charges, the most glaring one is Michael Sorrentino’s failure to file his 2011 return.  Few things are more certain to draw the watchful eye of the IRS than receiving large amounts of income and failing to timely file a return.  That failure was like a gold-engraved invitation to a tax audit.

Once the IRS has started its audit, avoiding substantial civil or criminal penalties can be difficult, and near impossible without quick remedial action by a taxpayer with the help of an experienced tax professional.  The easiest way to mitigate the potential penalty or criminal exposure is to act before the IRS discovers the errors.