Aretha Franklin Estate Reportedly Owes IRS $8 Million in Back Taxes

Uncle Sam says Aretha Franklin owes more than "Respect" to the IRS. The late, legendary singer reportedly left behind a large debt in back taxes totaling nearly $8 million.

TMZ reports that the IRS claims Franklin owes more than $6.3 million in back taxes from 2012 to 2018 as well as an additional $1.5 million in penalties, although Franklin's estate has disputed the claim.

David Bennett of Thav Gross P.C., an attorney for Franklin's estate, told the outlet that Franklin paid off the vast majority of her debt before she died and that "The Estate is diligently working to resolve any remaining issues."

Bennett told The Associated Press that Franklin's estate has paid at least $3 million in back taxes to the IRS since her death in August.

"We have a tax attorney. All of her returns have been filed," Bennett told the AP. "We have disputes with the IRS regarding what they claim was income. We claim it's double-dipping income because they don't understand how the business works."

He added that the singer had a lot of 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," Bennett said. "We're going through audits. Returns were filed as timely as we could get them filed."

One of Franklin's former lawyers told TMZ that the tax lien reported by the IRS is the result of several audits over the last six years and points out that the agency lists 2018 as one of the years in question, despite the fact that the tax year is not yet over.

Franklin's lawyer also filed documents in October demanding nearly $54,000 illegal fees dating back six years.

The Queen of Soul's legal woes were worsened even more when a new lien filed by a publishing company that wants $136,000 for royalties in connection with the 1973 song "Angel."


Franklin died of pancreatic cancer in August in her Detroit apartment at the age of 76. At the time of her death, she owned a home in Oakland County, Michigan. The IRS filed its claim this month in Oakland County Probate Court. Documents filed in an Oakland County court after Franklin's death did not mention the value of her estate, which could run into the tens of millions, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Franklin had been the target of a number of lawsuits by creditors during the late 1980s and 1990s. In 2008, she said an attorney's mistake caused her $700,000 mansion in Detroit to slip into foreclosure over $445 in 2005 taxes and late fees. The Detroit Free Press reported at the time that she owed a total of $19,192 in back taxes on the property through 2007.