Sept. 27-Oct. 10, 2010 | accounting today 9
BY JIM MONIZ
The estate tax is just one more
reason to hate the Yankees
It’s all but expected In boston (and maybe
anywhere other than new york) that baseball fans hate
and with the passing of boss George steinbrenner,
there may soon be even more reason to loathe the
bronx bombers and all they stand for. The reason here
isn’t some new ace pitcher they bought from another
team, but rather the estate tax law.
back in the first year of George W. bush’s term as
president, the economic Growth and tax Relief Rec-
onciliation act of 2001 was passed, which essentially
phased out the estate tax.
In 2009, the amount a person could pass on to the
heir’s estate was $3,500,000. In 2010 the estate tax was
repealed and replaced by a long-term capital gains tax.
However, this part of the law will expire december 31.
In 2011, unless congress takes action, the exemption
rate of $1 million per person and an assessment of up
to 55 percent tax will become law again.
so what does that have to do with the new york yankees?
Well, let’s assume that steinbrenner’s only estate
holding was the new york yankees. some experts value
the team at more than $1 billion. because of the timing
of steinbrenner’s demise, the transfer of this valued
asset to his children could be potentially federal estate-tax-free. now, had steinbrenner lived another year, the
taxes on this asset would have been greater than $400
million. assuming the rules stay the same, his heirs
would pay capital gains on the sale. assuming they sell
under current rules, the capital gains taxes would be
15 percent, or $160 million.
There’s been some talk that congress would take
some action. on July 21, the senate rejected a bid by
sen. Jim demint, R-s.c., to end the “death tax.” efforts
failed last december to freeze the 2009 exemption of
$3.5 million and make it retroactive. Watch for some
serious challenges should this ever happen. It’s difficult
to imagine that steinbrenner’s heirs wouldn’t mount a
mighty effort to derail this potential law, as might those
of dan duncan, who died in march with an estate valued in excess of $9 billion. since duncan’s heirs potentially could lose $4 billion if the law were made retroactive, they would certainly have the funding available
to fight the Internal Revenue service all the way to the
supreme court. It’s likely that they would find kindred
spirits in the form of the steinbrenner heirs.
members of congress are busy trying to save their
seats, and there is little activity in the area of estate
tax reform on the docket. some pundits suggest a Re-
publican takeover of the House, but not the senate. It
is unlikely that a new congress would have the political muscle to override a presidential veto. president
obama, while campaigning for office, indicated that
he was in favor of extending the 2009 rates, but congress became embroiled in health care reform and
FROM ONE YEAR TO THE NEXT
so let’s look at the impact of the tax law on a small estate here in massachusetts. tom, a Red sox fan, owns
a small business, real estate and personal property totaling approximately $7 million. If tom stays healthy
through 2010 but passes away in 2011, his heirs will pay
over $3.2 million in estate taxes, assuming nothing is
done. If congress were to freeze the rates at the 2009
rates, his heirs would pay just under $2 million.
The difference is staggering: steinbrenner’s heirs will
receive over 85 percent of his estate, while tom’s heirs
face a different reality — only 50 percent.
The idea of a potential repeal of the estate tax is appealing. However, in 2008 the treasury collected more
than $28 billion in estate taxes from families. The federal debt and spending have increased at alarming
rates, while the government wants to cover nearly all
americans with health care insurance, extend unemployment benefits, and increase spending at meteoric
levels. Remember, too, that the nation is fighting two
wars. The problem with an estate tax repeal is that we
would have to somehow replace that revenue. It is
probable that there will be a change in the estate tax
law, and not to the benefit of the heirs.
so what can be done? If you have been putting off
your estate planning and assuming congress is going to eliminate the taxes you might face, it is time to
have a conversation on the importance of strategic
planning. It is possible to create programs that will be
adjustable, assuming there are changes in the estate
tax rules. However, it is always better to plan around
taxation based on current law, not on a whole other
change that may never come.
meantime, the yankees appear well on their way to
another division win, as if there weren’t enough reason
to hate them already! at
Jim Moniz is president and CEO of Northeast Wealth
Management, a Braintree, Mass.-based company
that focuses on the needs of high-net-worth individuals and professionals. Reach him at jmoniz@
1099 rules: Bad all around
RoGeR Russell Has accuRately RepoRted the IRs issues of the
1099 reporting rules (“1099 rules seen as a major burden,” Aug. 16-Sept. 12,
page 10). What mr. Russell appears to have omitted is the consequences
of these rules on the recipient firms of the 1099s.
many of these large firms will have to hire additional administrative
personnel to process the thousands of forms that will be received. These
additional employees, in addition to salary, will require payments for fringe
benefits and the employer’s share of FIca. all these operating costs will be
passed on to the consumers and customers through higher prices.
smaller firms will either hire additional employees; do the work internally, adding overtime costs; or outsource the process. any of the choices
will add costs to the employers. since the costs will be passed on to the
consumers, additional state and local sales taxes will also be added to the
final bill. These higher prices will hinder economic growth.
In addition, there will also be inevitable data entry errors, which will
cause additional issues for the IRs and the senders of the 1099 forms.
With the impact of these additional reporting requirements and rules,
congress has shown, once again, a complete disregard for the business
Leonard Steinberg, EA, CMC
Steinberg Enterprises LLC
West Windsor, N.J.
“Henderson, you’ll never make it in this business
unless you learn to think outside the box.”
YOUR TURN: TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
Accounting Today welcomes opinion articles and letters to the editor
from our readers. Send yours to email@example.com.