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Updated: Jan 17

They say the only guarantees in life are death and taxes. But if you aren't careful, even when you experience the former, you might still be on the hook for the latter.  Aretha Franklin is remembered as the queen of soul. Throughout her decades-long career, she was a singer, songwriter, civil rights activist, and a humanitarian icon. After her death in August of 2018, thousands came to pay their respects. Franklin left behind an incredible legacy. Unfortunately, she also left behind millions in back taxes. 

News soon broke that Franklin's estate owed $6.3 million in unpaid taxes and $1.5 million in penalties. This massive tax lien comes after several audits between 2012 and 2018. Franklin's attorney, David Bennett, claims Franklin's estate has paid at least $3 million in back taxes. Bennett insists that most of Franklin's tax obligations were paid prior to her death, as per her wishes. But the U.S. Treasury has stated that "no part of the debt has been repaid." 

Where did these massive unpaid taxes come from? It's likely they were lost at the bottom of Franklin's purse. The queen of soul often performed on stage with her purse nearby. Always the savvy business women, Franklin would not perform until she was paid. Checks from her shows went into her purse, which was either handled by her security team or brought onstage, and it remained within view of the piano at all times. Franklin knew how to get paid, but she had a bad habit of forgetting to cash those checks. 

"She had a lot of checks lying around that she had never cashed," Bennett admitted. "I had to have some of them reissued because they were so old." 

If this is true, these checks could be considered undeclared income, and the IRS is owed their cut. The IRS has stated, "This debt has priority and must be paid in full in advance of distribution to creditors to the extent provided by law. "Franklin's estate is working to resolve the issue. It doesn't matter if you're a living legend or the late queen of soul, the IRS will always get what they're owed.

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