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‘Survivor’ thought producers would pay taxes

Richard Hatch says producers did not return his calls about tax issues
/ Source: The Associated Press

“Survivor” Richard Hatch decided not to pay taxes on the $1 million he won on the TV show’s first season after discussions with producers, fellow contestants and his accountant, and, he testified Monday in his federal tax evasion trial, after receiving two letters from the IRS.

Hatch is accused of failing to pay taxes on the money he won on the show in 2000, as well as other income, and is charged with using money earmarked for a charity on himself. Testimony wrapped up Monday afternoon, and closing arguments were scheduled for Tuesday.

Hatch told jurors he missed the deadline for filing his 2000 tax return, and later received two letters from the Internal Revenue Service warning that the government had not received it. The letters listed several sources of income he received, but did not mention his grand prize from “Survivor.”

Hatch said he thought that meant someone else had paid the taxes on the prize.

But under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Vilker, Hatch acknowledged that the IRS letters cautioned the list of income may not be comprehensive.

Hatch testified during the trial that he thought the producers of the show were going to pay the taxes on the prize, and said he called them several times to ask about tax issues but they did not return his calls.

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Producer Mark Burnett testified earlier in the trial that the contract Hatch signed stated contestants were responsible for paying all taxes.

Also Monday, Hatch acknowledged that he used money donated to his charity, Horizon Bound, to pay for personal expenses, including tips for his limousine driver and payments for workmen doing construction on his house.

He said he had put much of his own money into the charity, and was reimbursing himself.

Hatch said improvements he made to his property in Middletown were for the benefit of Horizon Bound, which was set up to run wilderness trips for troubled youths.

For example, he said he lengthened and widened his driveway to accommodate a bus in anticipation of launching camping trips from his home. Also, he said he leveled a portion of land so tents could be set up there, and said he added two extra bedrooms and a bathroom to the house to be used by the charity.

Hatch acknowledged that Horizon Bound never ran any trips, and said he sold the house in 2002 for more than $862,000.