Going, Going, Gone!
U.S. taxpayers are experiencing a “perfect storm” of opportunity to make tax-free transfers (gifts) of assets such as family businesses, real estate and other wealth from one generation to the next. The gift tax was first enacted in 1932 by the federal government. Over the coming months, we all have what may be the best opportunity since 1932 to gift family assets without a gift tax now and to avoid significant estate taxes later.
Two notable exceptions to the gift tax
Some people are not aware that giving away assets to their children or other individuals may create a taxable event. The “gift tax” referenced above applies to anything of value transferred by one individual to another. There are two notable exceptions to the gift tax. One is an “annual exclusion” which is an exception that allows individuals to gift up to $13,000.00 per year per person without any gift tax consequences. A second exception is an overall gift tax exemption which historically has been limited to $1M during an individual’s lifetime.
As we counsel clients during the preparation of their estate plans, one concern is usually very evident – parents are worried that their children will squander the funds and assets that they worked very hard to accumulate. This concern can be addressed in many ways, but usually, parents request specific provisions in their estate planning documents that control an heir’s access to distributions based upon age, accomplishments, and certain life choices. Therefore, the assets are distributed largely because a specific milestone has been reached. The thoughtful nature of the distribution planning, however, leaves a primary problem unaddressed – preparing the heirs for wealth transition from one generation to the next.
Studies conducted by various institutes demonstrate that many estate plans that have been completed and then updated carefully and competently throughout the years, successfully address the issues relevant to the parents’ wishes. The attention to detail, however, cannot necessarily fill the gap of the heirs’ lack of direction and instruction that results in chaotic estate administration, family disharmony, and relationships that remain broken forever.
Dan A. Penning has been invited as a featured speaker to present on the topic of estate and gift tax issues concerning cottage succession planning at the ICLE 51st Annual Probate & Estate Planning Conference for Michigan attorneys. Penning will join two other speakers addressing cottage law succession planning issues during the three-day conference featuring a variety of topics for Michigan attorneys seeking continuing legal education. The conference will be held at the Grand Traverse Resort, in Acme, Michigan on May 19-21, 2011 and a second presentation will be held at The Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan on June 17-18, 2011.
Planning for the succession of ownership and operation of the family business for next generations presents many tax and non-tax challenges for the family business owner. Oftentimes, keeping the family business in the family involves having to choose between implementing strategies to accomplish tax benefits at the expense of implementing other strategies that may provide a greater likelihood the business will continue to prosper and be managed properly in the future.
Substantial yet limited opportunity
Well, as is addressed in the article below, Congress presented family business owners an unprecedented planning opportunity by enacting the legislation extending the Bush era tax cuts and expanding the estate and gift tax credits at the end of last year. While the opportunity is substantial, it’s limited and likely to undergo changes and possible repeal at the end of a short 2 year window with the current law set to expire at the end of next year, 2012.
New Year – New (Extended) Tax Laws
The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010. (The “Act”)
After great speculation and debate, Congress has now passed and President Obama has signed a tax package which gives individuals and businesses some predictability for the next two years through December 31, 2012. The Act extends the Bush-era tax cuts, provides estate tax relief, an “AMT” patch, a reduction in employee paid payroll taxes and provides businesses with new incentives to make capital investments by extending depreciation and tax credits.
Proposed “Carried Interest” Tax Purports to Soak Wall Street But Hits Family Businesses
For the time being, the Senate has again abandoned efforts to impose a “carried interest tax” on venture capitalists, investors, and managers of family businesses. The tax would have increased the 15% capital gains tax rate on certain investors’ profits to the top income tax rate, which is scheduled to hit 39.6% on January 1st (H.R. 4213). The share of investors’ profits is called “carried interest.” It might appear at first glance that it’s perfectly fine for investment managers to be taxed at higher rates on their “carried interest.” But venture capitalists and investors don’t reside exclusively on Wall Street. The law was written so broadly that it could have hit approximately 6.5 million people invested in real estate partnerships that own anything from a single dwelling to sizable commercial properties.
The proposed legislation attempts to sway middle America by couching the carried interest tax as imposing a higher rate on “investment management services” and “investment managers” who work for Wall Street houses. In reality, the proposed legislation could have imposed a higher tax rate on any partnerships invested in particular assets. The higher rates would apply to investment gains and also to gains from the sale of the partnership, and therefore, a sale of the family business would not qualify as a capital gains transaction. Family operations are commonly formed as partnerships and managed by a family member. Under the proposed legislation, the managing family member could be subject to the “carried interest tax.” For a family partnership to gain liability protection and also not be subject to the higher taxes, an outsider – not a family member — would have to manage the partnership. The House version of the legislation exempted family farms and ranches held in partnerships. Other family partnerships would have had to wait for the Treasury Department to exempt them through regulations.
We are pleased to announce that Dan A. Penning has been named a FIVE STAR Wealth Manager by HOUR Detroit magazine in its June, 2010 issue.
As detailed below, more than 11,000 wealth managers practice accounting, business planning, estate planning, financial planning, insurance and investments in the metropolitan Detroit area. Out of the 11,000 wealth managers, only 686 of the top-scoring wealth managers were named a FIVE STAR Wealth Manager for 2010. Out of the 686 wealth managers, only 50 attorneys were included in the list and Penning was named as 1 of the 50 attorneys.
A large portion of the businesses in the United States are closely held companies, and many of the closely held companies are family owned enterprises. The long term perpetuation of the family business is a common and laudable goal of most founders. Developing strategic and successful transitions to subsequent generations largely centers on who will control the company and whether the control will be concentrated in one family member or a small group of family members, or if the control of the company will be spread out among a large group of family members or all the family members. Limiting control to a sole shareholder or a concentrated group of shareholders that are involved in the company is usually the preferable option. The founder’s decision to select the most advantageous successor(s) is hardly adequate, however, and many founders approach this first order of business tepidly and do not make the difficult decision due to the attendant consequences that include a possible disruption of the business and family relationships. A successful transition inevitably involves addressing the possible conflicts that will arise within the company itself and among the family members involved. Conflicts can emerge from the most expected and unexpected sources, and a founder that is willing to plan for and manage potential conflict will provide a more secure foundation for the business to continue successfully beyond his or her lifetime.
A part of a lawyer’s arsenal in assisting the family business owner is to formulate a succession plan and draft a buy-sell agreement that determines the steps and the results of various shareholders buying out other shareholders and under what circumstances a shareholder may or may not continue as a shareholder in the business. In many family situations, however, the inherent conflicts that arise and come to the surface are because the family has not been taught the intangible character development and emotional fortitude that is necessary to successfully navigate and resolve disagreements. Personality clashes, the history of family members’ childhood relationships, opposing perspectives on the management and operation of the family business, and the founder’s choice of who will succeed to the control and ownership of the company have the potential to ignite family blow ups.
I’m pleased to announce that one of Michigan’s premier business journals, DBUSINESS, recently announced its 2010 “Top Lawyers” in metropolitan Detroit – and three of the principals with Wright Penning & Beamer made the list.
DBUSINESS compiles its list as a resource and reference guide for its readers. Selection criteria include: Read the rest of this entry »
Important events require careful planning. For example, what happens to your assets, who will care for your children, will your business survive or will your children be able to protect a legacy asset such as a cottage or vacation property in the event of your incapacity or death all involve critical decisions. Planning “in time” does not necessarily mean that the planning is “on time.” Any ambulance driver will tell you that lying on a stretcher on your way to the hospital is not the time to begin working on your estate plan or business succession plan. On a number of occasions, the importance of timely planning has been dramatically presented to me. In each situation, clients with entirely different types of estates and needs had one thing in common, they waited to plan until it was almost too late. Sometimes the risk of delayed planning “on time” becomes “in time”.
Each of these examples involve critical decisions and require careful planning.
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