Grammy-award winning singer Lauryn Hill is battling to stay out of jail over unpaid taxes.

Aside from occasional concert appearances, she has been absent from the music scene for several years. She has not released an album since 2002.

Her most publicized recent public presence was in a federal court appearance in 2012 when she pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes from 2005 to 2007 on $1.8 million in earnings. Her tax liability, including interest, penalties and unpaid state taxes, is estimated at $968,000.

The 37-year-old R&B star agreed to clear a $554,000 federal tax liability by May 6, when she is scheduled to be sentenced. She faces up to three years in prison. Hill reportedly made a payment of $50,000 in late 2012, but has less than two weeks to come up with the remaining $504,000.

The singer is planning to borrow against the value of two real estate properties to settle her federal tax bill before the court date, according to Nathan Hochman, her attorney. In addition, she recently signed a $1 million recording contract with Sony.

But reliance on a recording contract to settle the tax liability was criticized by U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark who said that the singer has “substantial assets.”

“This is not someone who stands before the court penniless,” Arleo said to Hill’s attorney, Nathan Hochman according to “This is a criminal matter. Actions speak louder than words, and there has been no effort here to pay these taxes.”

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Krishana Davis

AFRO Staff Writers