The IRS Wants All of Its Money From Aretha Franklin, Who Reportedly Owed Millions in Back Taxes

Aretha Franklin performs onstage at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Commemorates Its 25th Year And Honors Founder Sir Elton John During New York Fall Gala on November 7, 2017 in New York City.
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris (Getty Images)

The Internal Revenue Service is a goon when it comes to its money. The tax org gets its money in life...or in death.



Aretha Franklin’s estate reportedly owes $6.3 million in unpaid taxes and $1.5 million in penalties attributed to the late legendary singer from 2012 to 2018, according to TMZ. The huge tax lien comes from several audits over the past six years. But an attorney for the Franklin estate says the estate has already paid the IRS at least $3 million in back taxes, according to the Detroit News.

“The IRS has filed its proof of claim in the ordinary cause of the estate’s proceeding,” Franklin’s attorney David Bennett told the Detroit News in a statement via her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn. “This is not a liquidated claim, and it is disputed by the estate. The vast majority of Ms. Franklin’s personal 1040 tax obligations were paid prior to her death–something she wished to occur. The estate is diligently working to resolve any remaining issues.”

The U.S. Treasury at the IRS office states “no part of this debt has been paid,” and the total amount is now due, the Detroit News reports.


“It appears the IRS is ascertaining various years and various amounts of what it believes is tax they are due,” noted former IRS officer, Greg Mahaffey, who isn’t involved with the Franklin case.

If you remember the infamous reason why the late Queen of Soul always carried her purse onstage, you’ll be like, “Ah, makes sense.” But, you don’t have to remember, because I’ll tell you.


Noted New Yorker editor David Remnick in a April 2016 profile of Franklin:

“She collects on the spot or she does not sing. The cash goes into her handbag and the handbag either stays with her security team or goes out onstage and resides, within eyeshot, on the piano.”


“She had a lot of (pay) checks lying around that she had never cashed,” Bennett continued. “I had to have some of them reissued because they were so old. I don’t know why she didn’t cash them, but it seems that the IRS figured some of it as undeclared income and are going after it.”

The late singer also reportedly owes almost $54,000 for bills and a publishing company filed a lien demanding $136,000 for royalties regarding her 1973 song, “Angel,” according to TMZ.

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Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.