Oprah Hates Writing Checks to the IRS

Chicago (January 21, 2011)
By Michael Cohn

Oprah Winfrey told Piers Morgan that the most difficult check she has to write each year is for the Internal Revenue Service, and she usually needs some tequila from her accountants when she signs it.

Winfrey admitted to Morgan during the debut episode Monday evening of the CNN talk show he is taking over from Larry King that she only signs checks for amounts over $100,000 nowadays. Winfrey launched her new cable TV network, the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, earlier this month. But she still has “several hundred” checks to sign for over $100,000.

“It would knock your socks off,” she told Morgan. “Millions are going out.”

Morgan asked if that was painful. “The most pain I feel — and my accountants will tell you this — is every time I write a check to the IRS, it’s a ceremony. For years they came in with wine. Now they come in with tequila. It’s a tequila-signing ceremony.”

Morgan asked her what was the most painful check she ever had to write to the IRS, but Winfrey cannily ducked the question, teasing Morgan, “You’re good. You think I’m going to give you the number. No, no, no, no, no.”

Morgan noted that Forbes magazine estimates that Winfrey is worth $2.7 billion, and asked if the figure was accurate. She responded, “I knew you were going to go there sooner or later. I’m not sitting around counting it.” However, she added that she knows how much she’s worth “because I already had counted it.”

Morgan followed up by asking Winfrey about her philanthropic endeavors, which include the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, a school she runs in South Africa for economically disadvantaged young women. Morgan noted that Winfrey reportedly has given away over $300 million to various charities, and Winfrey corrected him, saying she knew it was more than that amount.

He asked if she knew how much she has given away, and she replied, “No, I really don’t, but I know it’s more than $300 million. I have this school and it’s ongoing and I’m responsible for all of these girls and them getting an education, and I pay for every single thing and I think that the charitable work that you do — and when I’m gone everything that I have is going to go to charity because I don’t have children and I believe that that’s what you should do, that that’s how you should live your life. To whom much is given, much should be given back. To me, the money, it’s certainly a wonderful thing, but it is in direct proportion to how you’re able to bless yourself and how you bless others with it.”

Asked whether money can buy happiness, Winfrey responded, “It can certainly pave the way for it.”