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Contractormag 3265 Succession

Solving succession planning problems

Aug. 8, 2016
Succession planning does not have a one size fits all solution The tax cost of the wrong succession plan is a never-ending expensive nightmare Every possible use of an IDT in succession planning is not covered in this article

Do you own or run a family business? A business you want to continue after your leadership ends... then this article is a must read!

Let’s start with an example. Joe owns 100% of Success Co. He has three basic choices, when it comes to determining who will finally own Success Co.:

1. One or more family members.
2. One or more key employees.
3. Some third party (or company) to whom Success Co. will be sold.

Yes… it’s a fact, succession planning does not have a one size fits all solution. A suggestion: As you read this column, zero in on the situation described below that best fits your own circumstances. The following four family situations come up often in practice.

1. Joe (the owner of Success Co.) either has no children or none of his children could run Success Co. Of course, one or more of these kids could own all or part of Success Co., if a professional manager ran the company (actually done, but rarely).

2. Sam (Joe’s only child) works for Success Co. and Joe is confident that Sam could run the company.

3. Two or more children and all are in the business. Most of the time Joe wants each of them to own an equal number of shares (for example, 50/50 if two children are in the business). This creates a special problem — when more than one child is in the business, there must be a clear leader (with voting control) to make the final business decisions. Here’s how we solve this problem: We create voting stock (say 100 shares) and non-voting stock (say 10,000 shares). This is a tax-free transaction. Joe keeps the voting stock and control of Success Co. The non-voting stock goes to the business kids. When Joe goes to the big business in the sky, 51 shares of the voting stock (and control) goes to Sam (the clear leader). Sam’s non-voting shares would be reduced by the exact number of extra voting shares he receives.

The tax cost of the wrong succession plan is a never-ending expensive nightmare.

4. There is one (or more) child in the business and one (or more) non-business child. This common fact situation is a problem. Typically, Joe wants the stock of Success Co. to go only to the business children. The non-business children get other assets owned by Joe. Of course, we have the same problem as in three above (treating all of the kids equally). Often, there are not enough other assets (small value compared to value of Success Co.) to accomplish the “treat-‘em-equal goal.” Second-to-die life insurance is usually the choice to get to the equalization goal for the non-business kids.

Tax problems

The tax cost of the wrong succession plan is a never-ending expensive nightmare. Let’s run the numbers by example: Joe sells Success Co. for $1 million to Sam. Assume the tax rates are 40% for income tax (35% federal and 5% state) and 40% for estate tax.

Suppose Joe’s tax basis for Success Co. is zero. Let’s follow the numbers. Sam must earn $1.67 million, pay $.67 million in income tax, leaving $1 million, which Sam pays to Joe. Joe must pay a capital gains tax of $200,000. Only $800,000 left.
Crazy! Sam must earn $1.67 million and after taxes, Joe only has $800,000 left. Outrageous! And when Joe passes another 40%, $320,000 goes to the estate tax monster.

Stop. Apply the numbers in the example to your company. Yes, it’s expensive to do succession planning wrong.

Succession planning done right

It’s actually a two-step process. Let’s say the value of your business is $7 million. To keep it simple, let’s use $1 million.

Step No. 1 — Recapitalize Success Co. You have 100 shares of voting stock (which you keep for control) and 10,000 shares of non-voting stock. The non-voting stock gets discounts (total of 40%), which makes the value of Success Co. (for tax purposes) only $600,000.

Step No. 2 — Sell your non-voting stock to an intentionally defective trust (IDT) for $600,000. The trust pays you in full with a $600,000 interest-bearing note. What is an IDT? The same as any other irrevocable trust, except the trust is not recognized for income tax purposes. The result is that every penny you receive until the note is paid, is tax free: no capital gains tax and no income tax on the interest income. The cash flow of Success Co. is used to pay off the note, plus interest.

Every possible use of an IDT in succession planning is not covered in this article.

Sam is the beneficiary of the IDT. When the note is paid off the trustee distributes the non-voting shares to Sam. Joe still owns the voting stock and controls Success Co. for life.

Can the IDT strategy be used to transfer Success Co. to one or more employees? Of course, but typically the price is the full value of non-voting stock (Joe keeps the voting stock until he is paid in full). Can an IDT be used to buy out fellow stockholders? Yes! Every possible use of an IDT in succession planning is not covered in this article. Nor is every nuance, tax trap or exception covered. You are welcome to call me at 847/674-5295 if you have any questions. Or e-mail me at [email protected].

Irv Blackman, CPA and lawyer, is a retired partner of Blackman Kallick LLP and chairman emeritus of the New Century Bank, both in Chicago. He can be reached at 847-674-5295, [email protected], or visit:

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