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Bruce Springsteen Recalls Early IRS Woes: ‘They Came After Us’

Sean Garnsworthy, Getty Images
Sean Garnsworthy, Getty Images

After years of struggling to find an audience, Bruce Springsteen made it big in the mid-’70s — and soon discovered that failing to pay one’s taxes can have some pretty painful consequences.

Vanity Fair reports that Springsteen opened up about his old money problems during a sit-down with Tom Hanks at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival — part of a wide-ranging chat that also included looking back on the summer he painted houses to pay for his first guitar, as well as the thrill of being paid $5 for his first professional gig.

“That was the best money I ever made,” joked Springsteen, “except for all the rest.”

Part of “all the rest” included the proceedings from his first brush with success, which led to a period in which Springsteen and the E Street Band were forced to undertake a series of tours in order to pay a massive back tax bill. “We were Willie Nelson in reverse. First of all, I never met anyone in New Jersey who paid his taxes,” he laughed. “They came after us. … Not only did I have to pay all the taxes that I hadn’t paid, and then bills that I hadn’t paid — I wasn’t paying any bills either.”

On top of it all, Springsteen added that he was spending a lot of money in the studio “because we didn’t know how to make records” — all of which should be familiar to many young artists who’ve ended up deep in debt to their record companies, if not the IRS. Fortunately, he wised up near the turn of the decade. “This went on ’til 1980,” he recalled. “In 1980, I think I had about $20,000 to my name, which sounded like a lot of money when I was 20.”

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