Tina Turner: Legend's Death In Switzerland Saved Her Kids $45 Million In Taxes

Tina Turner was practically unstoppable. She came from humble rural roots, started singing around her 18th birthday, hit the top, walked out on Ike with nothing, clawed her way back and kept performing after several strokes and bowel cancer. We can only assume she decided to go on her own terms.

But for our purposes, the financial dimensions of her death are what matter. And she did just about everything right.

Death in her favorite part of Switzerland means her estate passes tax free. It's really that simple. Her widower is entitled to half. Her surviving kids are collectively entitled to another half.

Unless any of them signed a contract relinquishing those rights, that's how her estate will be distributed. Zurich doesn't take a cut. When you're looking at a reported $250 million in real estate and other assets, that's a big deal.

After all, if she'd stayed in America, her husband would still get his unlimited spousal deduction . . . but the kids would have had to pay 40% on just about everything in their share.

The only real question is the split. Half the marital property goes automatically to the surviving spouse before the compulsory division of "her half" as well as all the assets she brought into the marriage.

Based on the timing, I think a big piece of the reported $250 million came from her blockbuster solo era. There was never really a lot of joint business beyond the acquisition of the couple's 59,000 square-foot "weekend property" in the COVID era.

The real heart of her estate came from performing and record sales from the decades before the couple got married, culminating in the $50 million sale of the back catalog in 2021.

At that point, she was effectively "retired" from an economic point of view. That was the big payout, the liquidity event. And I wouldn't be surprised if that payout went directly to finance her share of the Zurich house at almost exactly the same time, give or take a week or two.

Wanting to own the house outright might have even tipped the scale motivating the sale. Previously, Tina only rented . . . and that side of the story gets garbled in the public record as gossip gets translated from language to language.

Some people think she bought the house back in 2013 once she got Swiss citizenship and could own property there. They think she sold in 2020. But that timeline really doesn't hold up because the Swiss started talking about her signing the deed in 2021. Maybe she bought and sold and bought again. Unlikely.

What's important is the way all the transactions over the past decade seem to follow solid legal logic. It starts with her marriage in July 2013.

At that point, he had already gotten his Swiss passport and she qualified for naturalization on her own. The right marriage contract would have pooled some or all of their separate wealth. Then, when Tina renounced her U.S. citizenship in November, the exit tax paid would have been half of what the combined property was worth at the time.

No offense to Tina's surviving spouse, but I think he was worth less than she was going into the relationship. His contribution to the marital assets could have been significant, but adding it to Tina's contribution and then cutting it in half would have saved a lot of money at the time.

Of course some assets like the back catalog might have made more sense to hold back . . . after all, there's no way to argue that they were created in anything but her individual hard work. But in 2013, legacy music rights weren't valued nearly as highly as they are today so the accountants could have written them down a lot for tax purposes.

Since then, music rights have become extremely lucrative. Paying the exit tax now would have been a lot more expensive. In this scenario, however, most of the appreciation has come free from IRS complications. It flows straight into the estate, one way or another.

And when Tina took the cash on that catalog, the cash was free from IRS scrutiny as well. She was already a Swiss citizen at that point. The money might have gone to buy the house. It might have simply gone into bank and investment accounts for her heirs. 

She came from nothing. She made smart moves. Long live the queen of rock and roll.


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