How much are the rights to the late Michael Jackson's name and likeness worth?
That's the central question in a case in U.S. Tax Court, according to The Wall Street Journal, which reported that the artist's executors are squaring off against the Internal Revenue Service over their value. The estate may have to pay more than $700 million depending on the outcome of the case, the newspaper reported, including more than $500 million in taxes and $200 million in penalties.
At the time of Mr. Jackson's death in 2009, the estate valued his name and likeness at $2,105, largely because his reputation was then tainted by his unusual public behavior and allegations of child abuse.
The IRS is arguing that the image asset should have been valued at $161 million; that would be lower than the $434 million value it placed on Mr. Jackson's name and reputation in 2013. At that time it had valued the total estate at over $1.3 billion.
Attorneys for the Jackson estate argue that the artist earned only $50 million from his name and likeness while he was alive, and that similar assets belonging to the estates of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali were never valued that high.
The government is “trying to take what Michael's estate created for his children after death and extract an unreasonable and excessive tax,” one of his attorneys said.