Oprah Winfrey is making sure that the 300 audience members involved in her upcoming Australia trip won’t get saddled with the gift taxes that blindsided recipients of her big car giveaway in 2004.
TMZ spoke with Larry Edema from Michigan – one of the audience members on the Australia show – who said Winfrey had a certified public accountant on hand to address the tax issue immediately following the taping.
Edema says the CPA informed the group that all taxes associated with the trip would be “handled by the Oprah show,” so the trip would truly be 100% free. The CPA also explained that Winfrey would cover all sightseeing costs and travel-related expenses — including passport costs for people who can’t afford them.
It’s a big change from Oprah’s 2004 controversy — when she famously gave every audience member a brand new car, but saddled audience members with as much as $7,000 in gift taxes.
In other Oprah news, Winfrey gave more details about her December trip Down Under during an interview with Australian television Thursday.
Tourism officials have been swamped with offers to host the TV star, from rainforest and reef resorts to humble homes in Outback towns.
“Now I’m going to go look for all those cards I’ve been saving over the years, from folks who have come from Australia,” Winfrey told Australian television Thursday. “The idea of staying at a real Aussie’s house is actually pretty appealing to me. So I don’t know who that would be, but I’m not ruling that out.”
Australia paid 2.3 million US dollars to bring Oprah and 300 members of her studio audience to Australia for an eight-day showcase of the country’s beaches, vineyards and the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. The whistlestop tour will finish with a recording session in the temporarily-renamed Sydney “Oprah” House, and Tourism Queensland said they were working through a number of itineraries with Oprah and her team.