The estate of Whitney Houston settled its dispute with the IRS over outstanding estate taxes. The IRS had contended that the valuation of Houston’s back catalog and image and likeness was undervalued by $22 million resulting in $11 million of additional taxes. The settlement was for $2 million. Oddly, or perhaps not given the state of journalism in 2018, the focus of most articles was on the value of her image and likeness but the IRS and the estate differed on that valuation by only $200K.
A few small points:
1. Since the death of Michael Jackson, the IRS has been taxing the image and likeness of dead celebrities with the value based on expected licensing revenues in the future.
2. Cool fact – Robin Williams said that his likeness cannot be used for 40 years after his death rendering its value worthless.
3. In the age of streaming music, the longer the estate held out the less valuable the back catalog of albums became.
4. This was purely a principled, but unemotional, victory for the estate. Houston’s daughter died nearly 3 years ago and Houston was divorced. Any estate tax savings will benefit her mother and her brothers.