A group of wealthy people that includes Warren Buffett, George Soros and former President Jimmy Carter is pressing Congress to roll back estate tax parameters, saying the current set-up leaves “too much revenue on the table.” The group of roughly three dozen people released a statement on Tuesday calling for both the current estate tax exemption […]
Unfortunately for DeMint, not too many people think the permanent abolishment of the estate tax is that hot of an idea.
Namely, a whole bunch of Democrats (minus Lincoln and Nelson of Neb) led by Majority Leader Harry Reid. The amendment failed 39-59 in a vote yesterday but no worries lovers of tax-free death! A few races in this fall’s election could kick around the this particular political pigskin, including Reid’s in Nevada where Tea Party darling Sharron Angle supports the permanent repeal.
It’s worth noting that J DeM considered the abolishment of the tax not to be a ‘tax cut’ but a “continuation of current policy since Congress let the tax lapse this year.” In that context, it sounds like Senator DeMint is embracing the fact that Congress screwed the pooch on the whole damn thing and figured that continuing the impotence of Congress was easier than having the same debate over and over.
Estate Tax Vote: An Issue in Fall Vote? [Washington Wire/WSJ]
Senate rejects permanent estate tax death [Don’t Mess With Taxes]
Also see: Senate Rejects Measure to Permanently Abolish Estate Tax [TaxProf]
BP Mulls Selling Off Billions in Assets [WSJ]
“BP PLC is in talks with U.S. independent oil and gas pr on a deal worth as much as $10 billion that could include stakes in BP’s vast Alaska operations, according to people familiar with the matter.
A deal, which would go a long way to helping BP cope with the financial stress of paying for the clean-up of the Gulf oil spill, could be reached in the coming weeks, though there is no guarantee it will succeed, one of these people said.”
Bank Profits Depend on Debt-Writedown `Abomination’ [Bloomberg]
This abomination has an official name, SFAS 159, The Fair Value Option for Financial Assets and Financial Liabilities
“Bank of America Corp. and Wall Street firms that notched perfect trading records in the first quarter are now depending on an accounting benefit last used in the depths of the credit crisis to prop up their results.
Bank of America, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, may record a $1 billion second-quarter gain from writing down its debts to their market value, Citigroup Inc. analyst Keith Horowitz estimated in a June 23 report. The boost to earnings, stemming from an accounting rule that allows banks to book profits when the value of their own bonds falls, probably represented a fifth of pretax income, Horowitz wrote.”
Koss embezzlement ran in spurts, lawsuit says [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
The most impressive “spurt?” $478,375 over three days in 2006. According to Koss’ lawsuit against S-squared and Grant Thornton, $145,000 also disappeared from the petty cash fund over the years, amongst other “unauthorized transactions.”
Bias At Work: To Sue or Not to Sue? [FINS]
Harassed? Discriminated against based on age, sexual orientation, race et al.? Of course suing your employer is an option. This is America after all, where the opportunity to slap someone with a lawsuit is your god-given right. But is it always the right move?
Bolt running from the taxman – Usain snub for British meeting [Daily Mail]
The fastest man in the world would prefer to keep a little money for himself, “Under present tax rules, if Bolt competes once in Britain and only five races elsewhere, the British taxman will demand one-sixth of everything he earns, whether in Britain or not. His taxable earnings would not only include his considerable appearance fees but also his hefty endorsement contracts.”
The Big Four’s UK Firms Pick Up Non-Executive Directors — And Then …? [Re:Balance]
Jim Peterson expands on his thoughts about the Big 4 non-executive directors in the UK, “Not only can good governance not be inflicted or imposed, in other words, because resistant leaders will find ways to disturb or subvert the purpose, but a virtuous culture will display its legitimacy without the need for pietistic overlays.”
Too Rich to Live? [WSJ]
The estate tax debate has gotten even more morbid than it would ordinarily be, ” ‘You don’t know whether to commit suicide or just go on living and working,’ says Eugene Sukup, an outspoken critic of the estate tax and the founder of Sukup Manufacturing, a maker of grain bins that employs 450 people in Sheffield, Iowa. Born in Nebraska during the Dust Bowl, the 81-year-old Mr. Sukup is a National Guard veteran and high school graduate who founded his firm, which now owns more than 70 patents, with $15,000 in 1963. He says his estate taxes, which would be zero this year, could be more that $15 million if he were to die next year.”
The latest act in the ongoing circus known as the estate tax debate has three “liberal” senators – Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) – calling for billionaires to help close the $13 trillion some-odd federal deficit that these über-rich people ate.
Forbes reports that the Messrs. Sanders, Harkin and Whitehouse sent a letter to their fellow Senators laying out their case, “According to Forbes Magazine, there are only 403 billionaires in the U.S. with a collective net worth of $1.3 trillion. Clearly, the heirs to these multibillion fortunes should be paying a higher estate tax rate than others.”
The champs of the bill also go to the trouble of singling out Dan L. Duncan whose family stands to inherit his $9 billion fortune tax free. It’s a good thing those staffers pointed out that article in the Times to their respective Senators!
• Exempts the first $3.5 million of an estate from federal taxation ($7 million for couples), the same exemption that existed in 2009. Doing this would mean that 99.75% of all estates would be exempted from the federal estate tax in 2011 alone.
• Includes a progressive rate structure so that the super wealthy pay more. Under our bill, the rate for the value of the estate above $3.5 million and below $10 million would be 45%, the same as the 2009 level. The rate on the value of estates above $10 million and below $50 million would be 50%, and the rate on the value of estates above $50 million would be 55%.
• Includes a billionaire’s surtax of 10%. Our bill also imposes a 10% surtax on the value of an estate above $500 million ($1 billion for couples). According to Forbes Magazine, there are only 403 billionaires in the United States with a collective net worth of $1.3 trillion. Clearly, the heirs to these multi-billion fortunes should be paying a higher estate tax rate than others.
• Closes all of the Estate and Gift Tax Loopholes requested in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget. These loophole closers include requiring consistent valuation for transfer and income tax purposes; a modification of rules on valuation discounts; and a required 10-year minimum term for Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATS). OMB has estimated that closing these loopholes that benefit the super-wealthy, would raise at least $23.7 billion in revenue over 10 years.
• Protects family farmers by allowing them to lower the value of their farmland by up to $3 million for estate tax purposes. Under current law, the value of farmland can be reduced up to $1 million for estate tax purposes under § 2032(a) (Special Use Valuation). Our bill increases this level to $3 million and indexes it to inflation.
• Benefits farmers and other landowners by providing estate tax relief for conservation easements. Our bill provides tax relief to farmers and other landowners by amending estate tax rules for conservation easements through an increase in the maximum exclusion amount to $2 million and increasing the base percentage to 60%.
Nice work on those last two Senator Harkin; you couldn’t be more obvious.
In case you didn’t catch it in there, the estate tax on the billionaires will be 55% PLUS! an additional 10% surtax. Sounds crazy right? Congress royally fucks things up by letting the estate tax expire in the first place and then has the stones to throw the double whammy on the rich because of it. Had they simply extended the estate tax (which seems to be a popular solution, btw) this political pigskin wouldn’t even be an issue.
But guess what? There are people behind this thing lock, stock and barrel. For one, the United for a Fair Economy (“UFE”) more or less says that this legislation is the catalyst to fixing everything, “The Sanders-Harkin-Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act is an important step on the road to an economic recovery that benefits all Americans.”
Well, not all Americans.
“The debate becomes what rate to apply, and there’s the Republican view and the Democratic view, and what level of transfer exemption should be there. There are two different camps on that. I think historically that would be ripe for sort of compromising down the middle, but unfortunately, that’s not the political environment that exists right now.”
~ AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon remains optimistic that something will get done.
Yes, the brain trust known as the U.S. Senate has managed to prolong the agony on the estate tax. There was a deal on the table as of yesterday but you can forget it! Hard to believe this could happen. Was it a fundamental disagreement on the proposal? Was it because everyone was broken up that Arlen Specter?
No, it’s mostly because some people (the R’s) don’t like that other people (the D’s) are being fraidy cats about not having enough votes:
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the accord, which was all but forged a week ago, began to dissolve Monday night and broke down Tuesday after talks between leaders in both parties.
After talks with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), they scrapped a plan to move forward with the tax that expired at the end of 2009.
The reasoning, Kyl said, is that Senate Democrats aren’t allowing any legislation to reach the floor that doesn’t have support from the majority of its members.
“We no longer have an agreement because the Democratic side has decided that unless a matter has a guaranteed majority of Democratic votes going in, they’re not going to allow it on the floor, at least not voluntarily,” he said. “So we have to find a way to get a reasonable permanent estate tax reform to the floor where members can vote on it.”
For crissakes. This is this biggest case of “I’m taking my ball and GOING HOME” we’ve seen this week.
Joe Kristan does put the whole thing in perspective however, “Congress has been botching the estate tax for almost ten years now; why should they start getting anything right now?”
The Exuberant Accountant isn’t the spamming type so when he sent out an email to, presumably, all of his blog’s email subscribers as a warning about new estate tax rules in 2010, it was clear this wasn’t a casual tax issue. Scott Heintzelman was kind enough to give me a few minutes to break down what this means for estates and why we should care.
Disclaimer: I took an estate tax class no less than two months ago and have since forgotten everything I learned so I needed a refresher anyway. As always, if you need advice on actually planning your estate, don’t listen to me and get yourself a CPA and/or tax lawyer. “We are accountants, ultimately we don’t draft agreements,” says Scott and he’s absolutely right. Get a trained mine-sniffer on that particular cluck mission.
Scott pointed to a recent post from his firm’s McKonomics blog called “No Estate Tax is a Good Thing, Right?” and it goes without saying he doesn’t believe this “no estate tax thing is good” by any means.
He gave the example of getting hit by a bus (awww, don’t run over the Exuberant Accountant!): If he walks out of his office tomorrow and dies, certain language in his will might leave a trust with $0 for poor Mrs Exuberant Accountant. What about the little Exuberant Accountant Jrs?! The humanity! Don’t worry, we’d start a charity drive.
Anyway, from McKonly & Asbury:
[M]any estate planners wrote wills with such language that the bypass trust would be funded with an amount equal to “the current lifetime exemption amount.” Since we currently have no estate tax, and no lifetime exemption amount, if a spouse dies in 2010, we could potentially have an unfunded bypass trust. This is especially alarming since we can all assume the estate tax will come back and we may have a taxable estate once the second [spouse passes] away.
And by that we mean, he was only 13 hours away from 2010, when the estate tax expired.
Fritz Lohman of New York died at 11 am on December 31, just barely missing the opportunity to save his heir millions in taxes:
Lohman, 87, a SoHo real-estate magnate who pioneered the exhibition of gay art, died at home at about 11 a.m. on New Year’s Eve after a long illness. If he had instead passed away after midnight Jan.1, his partner of 48 years could have avoided paying at least $3 million in estate taxes — thanks to Congress letting that levy lapse for 2010.
For you populists out there, you could probably give a rat’s ass about but jesus, that just sucks. Thirteen hours. That’s shorter than some Law & Order marathons.
Dying 13 hrs. too soon cost $3 mil in taxes [NYP]
We’ve been able to avoid the whole Michael Jackson debacle up until now. We couldn’t, in good blogging conscience, avoid this particular story.
The estate of Michael Jackson is probably going to have to turn over at least $80 million to the IRS and they get to cut the line right to the front to collect.
“As in a bankruptcy case, Jackson’s creditors will jockey for first crack at his fortune. But the estate’s initial obligation will be to pay the late star’s taxes, said Beth Kaufman, a Washington-based attorney specializing in estate tax issues. ‘There is no question that the U.S. government has first priority,’ she said.
Oh, and the Service is not going to take the royalty rights to She Loves You or I am the Walrus either:
To settle his tax bill, the executors of his estate may have to sell or borrow against lucrative but hard-to-value assets or ask the IRS for a multi-year extension. That could allow the estate to pay the tab over time with earnings from Jackson’s share in rights to songs by the Beatles and his own music — prized properties whose value will likely make the estate’s tax bill only bigger. “The government is not going to take a Beatles record as payment. They want to be paid in cash,” said Roy Kozupsky, a veteran estate lawyer in New York who has worked on behalf of several wealthy clients.
Reportedly, Jackson still made $40 million a year from his ownership of the recordings. This will no doubt make the calculation of the tax bill more complicated and thus, we’ll continue to be saturated with all the excruciating details about this story that we just don’t want to hear.
Death and taxes: Big IRS bill looms for MJ estate [AP via TaxProf Blog]