On Friday it was death, and today it’s something that is equally inescapable: taxes. The AP has an article about Brian Emmett, who won the grand prize Oracle Space Sweepstakes in 2005, a suborbital spaceflight. Problem is, Emmitt was facing a $25,000 tax bill based on the value of the prize, a bill he couldn’t afford. So, Emmitt had to forfeit the prize.
While the AP article about this hit the wires Sunday, it’s not a new development. In a post on his personal blog from September 2006, Emmitt noted that he gave up the prize back in March after calculating his tax bill and discussions with Oracle. “This was probably one of the toughest decisions I’d made in my life so far. Turning down the ability to realize a childhood dream when it’s so f—ing close you can touch it is really impossible to put into words,” he wrote.
While this is an unfortunate case, it appears to be the exception to the rule. Most other spaceflight prizes, such as the one announced this month by Microsoft and Rocketplane Kistler, include cash awards in addition to the flight to cover the tax bill; that wasn’t the case with the Oracle award. On the bright side, it could have been worse: the prize was valued at “only” $138,000, considerably less than the current going rate for flights on Virgin Galactic and most other suborbital operators.