When a celebrity passes away, the value of his or her estate is subject to federal (and sometimes state) estate tax laws. While savvy estate planning can greatly reduce the estate tax that a Tennessee resident owes, it is not uncommon for sizable estates to pay a significant estate tax. In the case of Michael Jackson's estate, the IRS is not satisfied with part of the valuation that the estate administration has calculated.
At issue is the value that is assigned to Jackson's likeness. The estate administrators claim that the value sits at $2,105. The Internal Revenue Service, on the other hand, feels strongly that the value is closer to $434 million. At least one attorney who is handling Jackson's estate feels that the IRS has reached a value that is preposterous, especially in light of the fact that Jackson only earned around $50 million from his likeness and name during the course of his entire career.
From the standpoint of the IRS, Jackson's estate has been incredibly well-managed, and has been able to pay off all of the performer's debt and make a profit on projects that include a documentary, video games, albums and tribute shows. So far, those efforts have yielded around $100 million in tax payments. Perhaps the IRS feels that there is far more to be had from the estate and is unwilling to walk away from such a valuable resource.
As the matter moves forward, Jackson fans in Tennessee and elsewhere may learn more about the performer's earning power both during and after his lifetime. One thing that can be gleaned from this case is the power of professional estate administration services in managing one's estate. An individual does not have to share Jackson's level of fame and fortune to benefit from such guidance.
Source: Hollywood Reporter, "Michael Jackson Estate Faces Billion-Dollar Tax Court Battle", Eriq Gardner, April 20, 2016