Aretha Franklin Owes IRS Millions in Back Taxes


One of the great losses of 2018 was undoubtedly the Queen Of Soul, Aretha Franklin who passed away on August 16, in Detroit Michigan from Pancreatic Cancer. She was the recipient of more Grammy Awards than any other woman. Furthermore, she was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

According to court documents, the singer did not have a will. Despite being ill for several years, and suffering from multiple medical ailments, she did not think she was going to die. Not having a will was particularly odd because since Clarence, her son, is a special needs person.

The singer’s Los Angeles lawyer Don Wilson tried to convince her to draw up a will. Despite knowing and understanding the importance of having one she never got around to completing one.

At the time of her death, People Magazine reported that Franklin was worth approximately $80 million, with an unknown amount of sales and royalties to come in future years.

Back Taxes Owed

Franklin’s attorney David Bennett, reported that in August her estate paid the IRS $3 million in back taxes.  Her estate has been audited by the IRS.

The IRS filed “proof of claim” documents on December 12 and 19 in a Detroit Probate Court. The agency claimed that she owed more than $6.3 million in back taxes from 2012 to 2018, which have accrued  $1.5 million in penalties.

The breakdown includes an unpaid balance of over $1.3 million from December 2012 and includes $552,718 due Dec. 31, 2018. This claim was filed one month after her last property in Detroit was sold for $300,000.

The filing reports:

No part of this debt has been paid and it is now due and payable to the United State Treasury at the Office of the Internal Revenue Service. This debt has priority and must be paid in full in advance of distribution to creditors to the extent provided by law.

Bennett told the Associated Press:

We have a tax attorney. All of her returns have been filed. We have disputes with the IRS regarding what they claim was income. We claim its double-dipping income because they don’t understand how the business works.

Bennett also stated that Franklin has many expenses when she toured.

She had to pay for transportation, hotel rooms, backup singers, musicians. When she did that the IRS was questioning the returns she filed. We’re going through audits. Returns were filed as timely as we could get them filed.

It was reported that prior to her death, the Queen Of Soul had multiple assets. She owned a home in Bloomfield Township, located in Oakland County. This month, the IRS filed a claim in the Oakland County Probate Court. The documents filed after Franklin’s death did not mention the value of her estate which is estimated to be tens of millions.

Bennett also stated that the estate paid money to the state of Michigan and other jurisdictions where she also had associated income.

Financial Issues

The Grammy Award-winning singer suffered from financial issues her entire life. She was sued and had multiple lawsuits during the 1980s and 90s.

From 1980 to 1988 she had more than 30 lawsuits filed against her in Michigan’s Oakland and Wayne counties. She was taken to court by people seeking payment on services rendered.

One lawsuit was in 1988 from Mark of Excellence Catering in Southfield Michigan. The lawsuit alleged that the entertainer hired the company for four parties, one being her birthday party. She never paid the bill, which was over $2,300.

Another suit in 1991, Hilton Limousine located in Ferndale, Michigan was filed stating the singer owed then $1,900. Then in 1992, the IRS put a lien on her Bloomfield Hills mansion for $225,618. for unpaid personal taxes from 1991.

In 1994, seven rooms at a Detroit Westin Hotel was booked for a scholarship dinner. Franklin’s credit card was declined and the hotel sent the invoices to her personally.

In 2008, she nearly lost her home because of unpaid taxes, which she blamed on an attorney’s oversight. Franklin paid $19,192 in back taxes and kept the Hamilton Road Mansion. Public records showed that the debt was paid, and the home was recovered. The home was sold by her estate in October 2018 for $300,000.

Franklin claimed that in 2008, her attorney accidentally caused her mansion in Detroit, which was reportedly worth $700,000, slip into foreclosure due to $445 in back taxes and late fees.

In 2015, she was sued by a Bloomfield Township Condo Association who claimed they were owed $11,563 in fees and maintenance.

The IRS is not the only one going after the Franklin Estate. In October 2018, one of her lawyers filed in court documents stating that she owed $54,000 in bills dating back to 2012. The estate was billed.  A publishing company filed that $136,00 was owed in royalties for her song “Angel” recorded in 1973.

Other celebrities have had tax issues, including Wesley Snipes, Michael Sorrentino, Chris Tucker, Pamela Anderson, Dennis Rodman, Christie Brinkley, O. J. Simpson, and Lindsey Graham to name a few. In fact, MSN reported in 2016 that at least 32 celebrities owe Uncle Sam back taxes. However, these stars are still among the living.

Franklin was not the only dead celebrity the IRS went after. Marketplace reports the IRS went after Michael Jackson’s estate and took them to court saying he owed $730 Million in estate back-taxes and penalties.

One of Franklin’s ex-attorneys stated that the current tax lien is the result of several audits which took place over the last six years.

Aretha Franklin sold 75 million records, won 18 Grammy Awards and is survived by her four sons; Clarence, Edward, Kecalf, and Ted White Jr.  The estate’s acting executor is Franklin’s niece

Written by Barbara Sobel
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware


The Detroit News: IRS:  Aretha Franklin’s estate owes millions in back taxes
Rolling Stone: IRS Claims Aretha Franklin’s Estate Owes Millions In Back Taxes
Fox 2 Detroit: Lawyer For Aretha Franklin estate says $3M in back taxes paid to IRS
Business Insider: Aretha Franklin died with a reported net worth of $80 million and no will
Deseret News: Refusal to pay debts tarnishing Franklin’s golden image

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of joe ortuzar’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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