Elizabeth Taylor, James Earl Jones and Sir Paul McCartney will pick up awards at the 25th annual honours of the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts.
Chita Rivera and James Levine will also been honoured at the ceremony.
President George Bush and first lady Laura Bush will receive the winners at the White House on December 8, before attending a gala performance and supper dance at Washington's Kennedy Centre.
Secretary of State Colin Powell will present the honours at a dinner for them the night before.
"The honours recipients are recognised for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts," the Kennedy Centre said.
Kennedy Centre Chairman James Johnson called Liz Taylor "a luminous film actress who for nearly 60 years has been a Hollywood icon treasured by millions throughout the world."
He called Jones, who supplied the voice of Darth Vader, "an actor whose extraordinary range and power have made him an American institution."
Paul McCartney was named as "one of the most prolific and influential songwriters of our era."
Levine, longtime musical director of the Metropolitan Opera and now leader of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, was credited with bringing "one of the world's foremost opera companies to unsurpassed artistic excellence."
Johnson called Rivera "a musical theatre star of the highest magnitude."