Tag Archives: estate tax

The Republican Tax Plan Is Out. What Now?

On November 2, 2017, House Republicans unveiled their widespread rewrite of the U.S. Tax Code. The tax plan, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, is a 429-page bill that provides changes to many aspects of tax law including the corporate tax rate, individual tax rates, the taxes levied on pass-through businesses such as partnerships, and estate taxes. While the bill is unlikely to be signed into law in its present form, certain key provisions of the proposal highlight the direction Republicans hope to take the U.S. Tax Code.

A notable provision is the slashing of the corporate tax rate from its current 35 percent rate to a new 20 percent rate. While earlier proposals considered a temporary rate reduction, the current proposal would make this tax cut permanent. Another much-discussed change is the introduction of a 25 percent tax rate for pass-through businesses such as partnerships and S-corporations. Most items of active income being passed through a business to partners or shareholders would be taxed at a maximum 25 percent rate, rather than the current 39.6 percent minimum rate.

The new tax plan also provides significant changes to how individuals are taxed. Key provisions reduce the seven individual tax brackets to four brackets of 12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent, and 39.6 percent. The 39.6 percent top bracket will only apply for married couples earning at least $1 million a year or individuals earning at least $500,000 a year. The estate tax exemption would be raised to $11.2 million from its current $5.6 million amount, with the estate tax repealed entirely by 2024.

This is only the beginning of tax reform. The bill must still pass the Senate and be approved by the President, a tall task even if Republicans control each aspect of the legislative process. The reaction of Senators, and more importantly the reaction of voters, will determine whether the tax plan is passed, amended, or rejected entirely.

Jamie E. Koepsel
jkoepsel@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2562

IRS Sees the Light and Withdraws §2704 Proposed Regulations

The Treasury Department’s issuance of proposed regulations under Code Section 2704 were met with significant criticism and confusion. The §2704 proposed regulations were intended to provide the IRS with an additional sword to reduce and in some cases eliminate valuation discounts on family-controlled business entities.

After thousands of comments were received and a public hearing was held where numerous taxpayer advocacy groups, business advisors, and valuation experts provided their concerns, the IRS finally blinked. On October 20, 2017, the IRS published a withdrawal notice of proposed rulemaking, which removes the potential for these proposed regulations to be finalized. The elimination of the proposed regulations is fantastic news for all family-controlled business owners that would be subject to estate and gift taxes. More information regarding the withdrawal is available at federalregister.gov.

Thomas J. McLaughlin
tmclaughlin@williamsparker.com
(941) 536-2042

2704 Regulations Explained: Proposed Rules Are Set to Further Expand Value Differences between Family-Controlled Entities and Other Companies

The IRS is focused on reducing valuation discounts associated with transfers of interests in family-controlled businesses, but this focus will result in family members being deemed to receive a different value than non-family members.  This also means that an appraiser will be required to establish two different values based on ignoring certain restrictions for family members, while taking those same restrictions into consideration for non-family members.

Consider, for example, a trust that provides that 50 percent of a decedent’s family-controlled business interest will go to charity and the remaining 50 percent will go to family members.  The IRS will be expecting that the interest being conveyed to the family members to result in a higher value when compared to the same percentage interest being conveyed to charity.  This ultimately means that the interest conveyed to family will result in higher estate taxes and the interest conveyed to charity will result in a smaller charitable deduction for estate tax purposes.  The end result is the IRS receives more estate tax from the estate even though the same restrictions apply to all members (both the family members and charity).

This post is part of a series of blog posts addressing the proposed 2704 regulations and the parties that should be reviewing their plans as a result.

View previous posts:

Thomas J. McLaughlin
tmclaughlin@williamsparker.com
941-536-2042

What Do Estate Tax Laws in Other Countries Tell Us About the Presidential Candidates’ Proposals?

Under current law, the federal government imposes a 40% estate tax to the extent an individual’s estate exceeds a $5.45 million exemption. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump advocates eliminating the tax. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton previously previously proposed reducing the exemption to $3.5 million and increasing the tax rate to 45%. Last week, she further proposed increasing the tax rate to 50% to the extent an estate exceeds $10 million, 55% to the extent an estate exceeds $50 million, and 65% to the extent an estate exceeds $500 million.

According to a 2015 Tax Foundation study, the current top 40% federal estate tax rate was the fourth highest amongst the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at that time. Japan had the highest top rate, 55%. Spain had the next highest rate behind the U.S., 34%. Chile rounded out the top 10, at 25%. 15 countries imposed no estate tax.

Adopting the Clinton proposal would make the U.S. top estate tax rate 10% higher than any other OECD country’s top rate. Even if we ignore the 65% rate applicable only to estates over $500 million, a 55% top rate would tie the U.S. with Japan for the highest rate. Even a 50% top rate would tie the U.S. with South Korea for the second-highest rate.

What does this tell us? The candidates’ proposals are at the opposite extremes of worldwide estate tax policies. While neither proposal seems likely to pass into law, the divergence underscores the tax policy polarization between the candidates.  Rather than “fitting in,” each pushes our nation’s tax policy to an extreme.

There is also a question whether adoption of either policy would serve the proposing candidate well as President.  How would Mr. Trump’s disgruntled blue collar supporters react to estate tax repeal?  One also can wonder whether Ms. Clinton’s proposal would motivate more of the wealthiest Americans to surrender their citizenship and move capital out of the U.S., not a result she relishes.

Here is a link to the Tax Foundation estate tax study: http://taxfoundation.org/article/estate-and-inheritance-taxes-around-world

Here are links to recent media coverage regarding the candidates’ estate tax proposals: http://www.wsj.com/articles/hillary-clinton-proposes-65-tax-on-largest-estates-1474559914

http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/trailguide/la-na-trailguide-updates-1474577545-htmlstory.html

http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2016/09/23/hillary-clintons-65-estate-tax-or-donald-trumps-repeal/#450664385bf7

E. John Wagner, II
jwagner@williamsparker.com
941-536-2037

2704 Regulations Explained: Proposed Rules Negating Gift and Estate Tax Valuation Discounts May Ensnare Your Vacation Home Too

As mentioned in several recent posts, the proposed regulations under Code Section 2704 are aimed at reducing valuation discounts associated with transfers of interests in family-controlled businesses.  So that the proposed regulations capture certain entities that may be disregarded for federal income tax purposes, such as single-member limited liability companies, the definition of a family controlled entity under the regulations casts a wide net.  In fact, this net is so expansive that it has the ability to reach certain business arrangements that are significantly different from the typical family business.

Consider, for example, three siblings who own a vacation home as tenants-in-common.  Assume that the siblings have executed a co-tenancy agreement that restricts each tenant’s ability to partition and sell their interest (as many of these agreements do).  If this arrangement constitutes a controlled entity under the proposed regulations, then the regulations would apply to this co-tenancy arrangement in generally the same manner that they would apply to an active trade or business.  Should the proposed regulations apply, if a co-tenant transfers his or her interest in the vacation home (either during life or at death), the value of this interest for transfer tax purposes may be computed without regard to the restriction on partition in the co-tenancy agreement and, in turn, any valuation discounts that this restriction may warrant.  In this event, the application of the proposed regulations may result in a higher gift or estate tax value associated with this transfer.

This post is part of a series of blog posts addressing the proposed 2704 regulations and the parties that should be reviewing their plans as a result.

View previous posts:

Douglas J. Elmore
delmore@williamsparker.com
(941) 329-6637

2704 Regulations Explained: Winners and Losers of Proposed §2704 Regulations, Is the IRS a Loser?

The recently issued proposed regulations under Code Section 2704 are specifically targeted at substantially reducing valuation discounts associated with family-controlled businesses.  The clear losers are the families that have taxable estates. These families will likely pay additional estate and gift tax once the §2704 regulations are finalized. In order to reduce the impact that will occur when the regulations are finalized, families that have taxable estates should review their existing plans to determine whether planning now could save them substantially later.

The IRS is likely to win in the long run, but the increased estate and gift tax revenue will be offset to an extent by a reduction in income tax.  In addition, courts have been reluctant to go along with the IRS’s past attempts to substantially change the value of a family-controlled business. Accordingly, if the IRS finalizes the regulations without substantial changes, we can expect multiple challenges to be forthcoming from taxpayers, which could further reduce what the IRS likely perceives as a significant revenue booster.

The clear winners are the family business owners that do not have taxable estates ($5.45MM on an individual basis and $10.9MM for a married couple) because the proposed regulations should allow their family to receive a larger step up in the income tax basis of the business, and in some cases the business’ assets, when they pass away.

This post is part of a series of blog posts addressing the proposed 2704 regulations and the parties that should be reviewing their plans as a result.

View previous posts:

Thomas J. McLaughlin
tmclaughlin@williamsparker.com
941-536-2042

2704 Regulations Explained: Why is the IRS Targeting Valuation Discounts on Family Controlled Entities?

The simple answer is that the IRS believes that valuation discounts taken on family controlled entities are falsely high, which results in lower transfer tax revenue to the Treasury.  With the foregoing in mind, it is important to understand how the IRS, courts, and taxpayers value a business interest under current law for estate and gift tax purposes.  The general rule for a valuation is to determine the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, both of whom have reasonable knowledge of the facts and neither of whom is compelled to complete the transaction.

The courts and the IRS have recognized that discounts should be allowed where the property transferred is a minority interest in an entity that cannot force or compel the entity to act (“lack of control”) and where there is a limited market for the property (“lack of marketability”).  Taxpayers and their planners began to take advantage of this knowledge by adjusting their entity’s governing documents to increase the discounts available when transferring interests to family members.  In 1990, Congress enacted Code Sections 2701 through 2704, known as Chapter 14, to quell what was seen by some as aggressive, and in some cases abusive, uses of these discounts to reduce transfer tax values especially when many of the restrictions imposed had limited or no significant substantive effect because the family had the ability to fully control the entity and eliminate the restrictions at its will.  Since Chapter 14 became effective, the IRS has slowly seen Chapter 14’s impact dwindle due to court decisions and changes in state law.  As a result, the Treasury began seeking legislative changes to Chapter 14; however, these changes were not getting traction in Congress after several years.  The proposed regulations are Treasury’s response to the inaction of Congress and an attempt to substantially reduce discounts that the Treasury believes to be an estate and gift tax planning fiction.

Over the next several weeks we will be providing a series of blog posts addressing the proposed regulations and a synopsis of the parties that should be reviewing their plans as a result of the regulations.

Thomas J. McLaughlin
tmclaughlin@williamsparker.com
941-536-2042

IRS Targets Valuation Discounts on Family Controlled Entities

The Treasury has followed through on its promise to issue proposed regulations that are intended to significantly reduce the lack of control and lack of marketability discounts applied by appraisers when valuing family-controlled entities.  The proposed regulations follow closely with guidance provided in the Treasury Department’s “Greenbook” as discussed in our prior post (click here to view prior post). The good news is that the proposed regulations have provided everyone with a window of opportunity to complete their planning before the regulations become final. We will provide a more detailed analysis of the proposed regulations soon.

Thomas J. McLaughlin
tmclaughlin@williamsparker.com
941-536-2042

Announcing Requisite VI: The Business Succession Edition

We are pleased to announce the publication of the sixth issue of our firm magazine, Requisite.  This issue focusses on succession planning for family businesses of all sizes. We feature an interview with Ken Feld, the CEO of Feld Entertainment (which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Disney on Ice). He is the second generation of his family to run the business and is transitioning its control to the third generation. You will also find articles covering some of the emotional and technical challenges to creating a great succession plan. And we consider an underappreciated connection between Henry David Thoreau and his family’s business.

You can peruse an electronic version of this issue here, subscribe to the magazine here, or request a hard copy by emailing your name and address to MarketingDesk@williamsparker.com.

Ric Gregoria
rgregoria@williamsparker.com
(941) 536-2031

How Can You Succeed in Your Business Succession Plan?

As the baby-boomer generation ages, an increasing number of family businesses will be experiencing transitions in ownership and/or management.  Not all of these transitions will be successful; popular studies indicate that only 30% of family businesses survive beyond the first generation.  In some cases, a transition may be undermined by a disconnect between the owner’s estate plan and the business’ succession plan.  A transition can be both successful and profitable, however, with patience, persistence, and proper planning.

John Wagner and Doug Elmore recently discussed techniques that can help align a business succession plan with an estate plan at a joint meeting of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the of Florida Institute of CPAs and the Suncoast Chapter of the Financial Planners Association.  Here is a link to their presentation materials:
Striking a Balance: Aligning the Business Succession Plan With the Estate Plan

E. John Wagner, II
jwagner@williamsparker.com
941-536-2037

Douglas J. Elmore
delmore@williamsparker.com
941-329-6637