Tax Returns For Wyclef’s Haiti Fund Raise Red Flags


SMOKING GUN: The Haiti earthquake has already triggered hundreds of thousands of donations to musician Wyclef Jean’s charitable foundation, which expects to raise upwards of $1 million a day in the disaster’s wake. However, Internal Revenue Service records show the group has a lackluster history of accounting for its finances, and that the organization has paid the performer and his business partner at least $410,000 for rent, production services, and Jean’s appearance at a benefit concert. Though the Wyclef Jean Foundation, which does business as Yele Haiti Foundation, was incorporated 12 years ago–and has been active since that time–the group only first filed tax returns in August 2009. That month, the foundation provided the IRS with returns covering calendar years 2005, 2006, and 2007–the only periods for which it has publicly provided a glimpse at its financial affairs. In 2006, Jean’s yele_haiti_logo.jpgcharity reported contributions of $1 million, the bulk of which came from People magazine in exchange for the first photos of a pregnant Angelina Jolie (the actress reportedly directed that the publication’s payment go to Jean’s charity, not her personally). MORE

WASHINGTON POST: By Friday morning, just days after the earthquake hit, Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Foundation had raised more than $1.5 million. Undoubtedly, Jean’s celebrity helped draw in donors: He’s an internationally known musician from Haiti who won a Grammy with the Fugees and went on to a hugely successful solo career. But an analysis of the charity’s tax returns raises questions about how it has spent money in the past, with administrative expenses that appear to be higher than comparable charities and payments to businesses owned by the musician and a board member, including $100,000 for a performance by Jean at a 2006 benefit concert. “It seems clear that a significant amount of the monies that this charity raises go for costs other than providing benefits to Haitians in need,” said Dean Zerbe, national managing director of Alliant Group, a tax services company, and the former tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees charities. Jean responded to the criticisms Saturday evening via YouTube. In the six-and-a-half-minute clip he says that he has “always been committed to the people of Haiti, I live in that country, I’m Haitian. This is where I come from.” MORE

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