‘Teen Mom’ Star Leah Messer Explains Why She Owes Nearly $780,000 In Unpaid Taxes: “I Didn’t Grow Up Making the Income I Do Now”

“I kept hopin’ that if I didn’t respond to them tax notices that they’d just stop comin’!”

Leah Messer wants to make things right between her and Uncle Sam— but the Teen Mom 2 star has a long way to go before she can pay the nearly $780,000 she currently owes in federal and state taxes.

In a new interview with In Touch Weekly, Leah explained how she ended up owing so much to the IRS and the state of West Virginia. (As The Ashley previously reported, Leah was hit last month with a new $290,297 lien for unpaid federal taxes for the years 2018, 2020 and 2021. This new lien is in addition to the federal and state tax liens Leah was slapped with last year totaling nearly $489,000.)

“But I’m fixin’ to fix it right quick!” 

Leah stated that she first got behind in paying her taxes after her divorce from Jeremy Calvert in 2015. That was the same year she went to rehab for drug addiction. (The unpaid taxes are for debts she incurred in the years 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.)

She then points to bad advice from various accountants as the main reason she got to be so in debt.

“I have worked with many different accountants over the years,” Leah told the magazine on Friday. “At first, I was filing and paying more than I was making and then I was paying people that had me stall while ‘they handled the tax situation,’” she said“Apparently it’s a long process. Then in 2020, the IRS was backed up like the entire world due to COVID.”

Leah also stated that she had no help figuring out how to handle the large amount of money she was making from appearing on ‘Teen Mom 2.’

How I imagine Leah’s conversation with the IRS about paying taxes went…

“I didn’t grow up making the income that I do now, [and] I didn’t have the guidance that a girl at 16 should’ve had to responsibly handle money and make healthy financial planning choices,” Leah said, adding that she is educating her three daughters on how to get their finances in order. “I’m figuring this all out on my own and passing the advice to the next generation of women in my family as I learn.

“Let this be an example for everyone out here: take that boring financial class in high school or college. Your future self WILL thank you for it!”

Leah said that, despite being hit with a new lien in May, she is working to resolve her hefty tax debt.

“This past year I have connected with an amazing accountant and tax attorney that is seeing me through this,” she said. “My hope in the future is to bring awareness and the same wisdom that I’ve gathered over the past year to my platform. When you know better, DO better. This will be rectified sooner than later!”

Leah, discussing her tax bill…

As The Ashley has previously reported, the ‘Teen Mom’ girls are all “independent contractors” and therefore have no taxes automatically taken out of their checks like W-2 employees.

“…because I AM gonna pay those ding-damn taxes!”

Leah is certainly not the first ‘Teen Mom’ star to find herself in tax trouble. Teen Mom OG stars Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra paid off their massive $856,800 tax debt in January, after being hit with multiple tax liens over a period of several years.

Other ‘Teen Mom’ stars who have run into trouble with Uncle Sam include Amber Portwood, who received a federal tax lien for $134,919 in 2016, and Maci Bookout, who has also been chased down by the IRS multiple times since she started on ‘Teen Mom.’ In 2013, she was hit with a lien of $78,308, only to receive another lien in 2015 for $5,249 and a third in 2017 for $12,569. Jenelle Evans and Kail Lowry have also found themselves in hot water with the IRS in the past. 

RELATED STORY: Leah Messer Hit With New $290,000 Federal Tax Lien; ‘Teen Mom’ Star Now Owes Nearly $780,000 In Unpaid Taxes

(Photos: MTV)

29 Responses

  1. Well they have been on notice about taxes since maci got hit back in 2013. However, it’s sad that mtv nor dr drew helps them.

  2. Jesus God Leah. Too much whiplash to follow and the excuses make no sense. She made less money before 2015 on “Teen Mom”, so why were taxes only a problem after the Jeremy divorce? I’m convinced Corey and Jeremy handled the taxes during the respective marriages.

    I’m not trying to shame her on the drug addiction, but her tax issues continued on years after her sobriety. Leah is directly to blame for the tax issues. Just stop already, and take responsibility.hire someone reputable to help.

  3. Not knowing about financial planning would have been a totally valid reason when TM started. Now, a few years after the first time she was not paying her taxes it’s no excuse.
    She know’s she has to pay, but has chosen not to.
    Leah has such a victim complex, and this working with a team nonsense won’t actually pay it. Next year, after they finally kill tm she will ether go bankrupt or OF. Both are sad, her family could have such a great life on what she has earned.

  4. I bet Chelsea’s father, Randy, helped or even took over Chelsea’s MTV income from the beginning. Most here seem to be really talking down on Leah. Your financial privilege is showing in the comments.

  5. So over the course of 6 years, with the assumption she hasn’t paid a cent in taxes, she has made about $2.3 million.

    So that’s about $380,000, per year. so she would need to work for another 5-6 years, at this current salary (plus now paying taxes, and her essentials), to pay if off. I don’t think TM has that many years left. Girl needs to start selling SponCon on her social media.

  6. Here’s a thought, maybe instead of buying houses, cars, vacations, etc, try educating yourself. I’m no fan of Kail but I have to give her credit for earning a degree. If the MTV money stopped tomorrow she’d be left with staggering debt and not much else.

  7. In addition to the other comments, if Leah has this bill for 800,000.00 and she is not paying some of it off right now, this must mean she has nothing saved from all these years on TM2. This is sad because living in West Virginia is not that expensive, she should have been saving all along. Now she will be subject to leans and garnishment as well as having no backup cushion when TM2 ends which it will.

    1. The median household income for her area is $30,000. Like can you imagine living there, and making 10 times the average income, and not saving a cent.

      She could have lived on $60,000-$80,000 and been balling in her area. She could have been living on $100,000 per year and been balling. Plus I think she gets child support from Jeremy, which he has to pay taxes on not her. Never need to work again, even if she just saved and never invested a cent.

      It’s going to be hard for her when TM ends and she’s lucky if she can make $30,000, and has to work two part time jobs for about 40-60 hours a week. Thank god, Jeremy and Corey’s jobs provide the girles health insurance.

  8. Most normal people don’t grow up making that kind of money. ? You didn’t fuck up with your taxes at 16 like you are bringing up. It wasn’t until later, 2015, when you should have at least known better at that time. So how many accountants are you blaming here for your fuck up? It’s never your fault, is it? Stop making excuses. The idea of taxes is not a new concept. You can’t tell me at no time in your youth have you heard others talking about paying taxes on their income. ? Lord girl! Learn to take responsibility for your life.

  9. Financial planner Leah, not some random “accountant” in a strip mall next to Domino’s. Also, once you’re aware you’re in the hole, don’t continue to dig a deeper one by blowing money stupidly. And finally, the Teen Mom people aren’t going to guide you right because you make for better ratings going down in flames.

    1. I feel like, if she did meet with accountants, she left and didn’t follow up when they didn’t tell her what she wanted to hear. I also feel like she probably would schedule an appointment and then miss it and keep putting it off.


    1. Yeah. Jeremy and Corey probably filled out the forms and just took care of it.

      yeah, she’s 31, when is she going to take accountability and stop blaming everyone else for her bad decisions?

      Like, maybe she should go after Jaylen for that house she bought. That money would put a BIG dent in her IRS debt.


  12. “I was 16!!”.. but the tax problems started in your 20s???

    The math aint mathin girl.

    “Its the accountants fault”.. Is it? Or did they tell you exactly what to do and you just didnt do it, bc you knew better than them.

    “I didnt grow up with money”.. yep. So? Most of folks on reality TV didnt. Teen moms, L&HH, Mama June, RH.. most of them didnt either but they manage to not owe the IRS almost $1M.

    You will be 40 before you know it. cant blame your childhood forever. That was a long time ago, hon.

    Once you got heavy into drugs, that was it.

  13. LOL at how she said she’s going to use all the advice she’s learned to bring it to her platform lol

    Is this going to be similar to her motivatal speaking? I mean I guess you gotta make money somehow yo get outta that debt lol

  14. In 13 years time she couldn’t learn what she feels she should have learned in a couple of lessons in high school? What she could have learned from parents?

    She took all those courses in the cult, she got in nursing school, she’s not dumb and she has an internet connection, also the ability to follow a course.

    I’m sorry but I’m not buying this excuse.
    Lousy advisors, maybe (when did she sue them for the damages by the way, they should be liable when they really did such a bad job), but not: I wasn’t able to learn this in the past 13 years.

    1. Do you really think her hillbilly parents could teach her ANYTHING about financial literacy? I mean, I remember watching TM2, and Leah lived in squalor. Her friends, her family, everyone she was surrounded by were touched by poverty.

      You know lottery winners who blow all their winnings on new homes and cars, without thinking about the taxes they will owe later on? I am almost certain Leah has been buying homes without a thought about property tax, home insurance, anything. I’m sure she felt the well could never be dried.

      I agree that she should have figured this out years ago before it became the million dollar mess it is now, but poverty is one hell of a thing and not everyone has the foresight to go “Oh. OH. That’s how I can live within my means.”

      Maybe step outside of your world view and see how others live.

      1. I think they meant that Leah has had time to learn on her own what she apparently wasn’t taught in school or by family. Jeremy filed their taxes when they were married. You would think that after the divorce, Leah would think about how she now no longer has a partner to do her taxes for her and do something about it.

      2. I agree. She definitely could have made the effort sooner, but between the lack of what appeared to be *any* literacy from her family and the thrill of getting large checks for 100’s of thousands, in a lot of ways she was doomed to fail.
        Also, she is in West By God Virginia, a state that’s a bit of a rebel about big gubment. I’m certain a lot of the people around her encouraged sticking it to (insert liberal politician here) by not paying.

  15. Leah Messer has been making money for YEARS. She is 31 years old. When is she going to stop blaming her upbringing and just realize that she knew she needed to pay, and didn’t. Corey grew up in the same area, and he hasn’t gotten a tax lien. Most people on TV are 1099 workers, she is no different then the majority. She find a licensed accountant from a reputable company like H&R block, its not that expensive (<$100) and they could have told her EXACTLY what she would pay, fill out the forms, and also sign additional forms that they will take responsibility if they majorly f*cked up.

    Leah shouldn't be in charge of making her own financial decisions, didn't she pay for the house her ex-fiance got the dead in his name, and she just gave it to him? Like money grows on trees.

    Someone needs to set up a trust for her, and pay her out just enough to pay her mortgage, car, bills, child care costs. And that's it.

    Teen mom will probably not be on that much longer, and she has no education, no skills, and 11-year gap in work history. She will not be making mid-6 figures anymore. Where she lives the median household income is $30,000/year, whereas females make closers to 21,000. She will not know what to do when the bottom falls out for her. And the government will take a lien on her house, garnishing wages like the IRS is no joke.

  16. If MTV did in fact give a crap about the teen moms, they should’ve gotten a financial advisor to help them out. Most of them came from a lower background with zero financial education or family guidance and found themselves making a lot of money. It’s not a coincidence that Chelsea (who has educated, caring parents) didn’t have this kind of problems

    1. Do you know the legal liability to HIRE them a financial advisor?

      VIACOM is a business that won’t take the risk of being sued for FORCING a specific financial advisor on them.

      The best they can do is what the NBA/NFL tell them to look for reputable companies (never list any just in case), with at least 8 years of experience. I still don’t think it would have changed anything.

      Yeah, Maci grew up educated and her father even served jail time for writing bad checks. And she had a tax lien. She also had an associate’s Degree. Education and background aren’t always all of it.

      Kail grew up poor and uneducated, for god sakes when we saw her her mom was homeless, and gave custody to her bf’s parents. She seems to be able to handle her own finances. She’s also the only one of the teen mom’s to finish college (minus Farrah’s law degree. /s )

      Yes, Chelsea was always going to be better off than the other girls, in everyway.

  17. MTV did all of the teen mom casts a serious disservice by not having help for them–key word-TEEN–they should have never allowed them not to have taxes taken from their pay unless they had an adult in their life that took over their finances! so many of these stories

    1. That’s not how taxes work. The teen moms are 1099 workers, also known as contractors. It’s common practice in most of media to do so, and is a lot of industries. Like consultants are typically 1099 workers. They also don’t have to pay for benefit programs, like SSI (you would have to set up your own IRA-ROTH account), or health insurance. Also, in the job these girls do, they don’t go into an office every day and work from 9-5 M-F. They work, a couple of days here, a week here. Like I think all in all they film for maybe 1-2 months per session. So it makes sense to make them 1099 workers.

      When you’re a W-2 worker, the government (state, federal, local), takes taxes BEFORE you get your check. And then at the end of the year, they see how much you actually made and then say oops we took too much, here’s a refund or oops we didn’t take enough, pay more. They also have a lot more programs like SSI match programs, health insurance, etc.

      But a 1099 worker, doesn’t have any taxes taken out. They have to pay it at the end of the year. So on average, they tell people put 35% aside so they can pay taxes. But people who aren’t good at budgeting, “forget”, then tax day comes and surprises you have to put down a lot of money TODAY. Also, if you grew up like most of these girls where they got a refund check because they were also poor, they just filled out their tax form, and got a check in the mail/ direct deposit.

      Also, there is a lot of liability if MTV hires an accountant for them. Not something they want to get involved in. I think they do tell them to get an accountant, but the girls probably didn’t listen. Make sure to take into account taxes, but they don’t fully understand.

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