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In this edition
July 2, 2019

Estate Planning Portability Lives on Under the TCJA

Podcast: Tax Refund or Tax Due This Year

Be Ready for Anything with Regular Business Valuations

Minnesota New Wage Theft Law
Estate Planning Portability Lives on Under the TCJA
When the TCJA was passed, the big estate planning news was that the federal gift and estate tax exclusion doubled from $5 million to an inflation-indexed $10 million. It was further indexed for inflation to $11.18 million for 2018 and now $11.4 million for 2019.

Somewhat lost in the clamor, however, was (and is) the fact that the new law preserves the “portability” provision for married couples. Portability allows your estate to elect to permit your surviving spouse to use any of your available estate tax exclusion that is unused at your death.

A Brief History

At the turn of this century, the exclusion was a mere $675,000 before being hiked to $1 million in 2002. By 2009, the exclusion increased to $3.5 million, while the top estate tax rate was reduced from 55% in 2000 to 35% in 2010, among other changes.

After a one-year estate tax moratorium in 2010, the Tax Relief Act (TRA) of 2010 reinstated the estate tax with a generous $5 million exclusion, indexed for inflation, and a top 35% tax rate. The American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) of 2012 made these changes permanent, aside from increasing the top rate to 40%.

Most important, the TRA authorized portability of the estate tax exclusion, which was then permanently preserved by the ATRA. Under the portability provision, the executor of the estate of the first spouse to die can elect to have the “deceased spousal unused exclusion” (DSUE) transferred to the estate of the surviving spouse.

How the DSUE Works

Let’s say Kevin and Debbie, who have two children, each own $5 million individually and $10 million jointly with rights of survivorship, for a total of $20 million. Under their wills, all assets pass first to the surviving spouse and then to the children.

If Debbie had died in early 2019, the $10 million ($5 million owned individually and $5 million held jointly) in assets would be exempt from estate tax because of the unlimited marital deduction. Thus, her entire $11.4 million exclusion would remain unused. However, if the election is made upon her death, Kevin’s estate can later use the $11.4 million of the DSUE from Debbie, plus the exclusion for the year in which Kevin dies, to shelter the remaining $8.6 million from tax, with plenty to spare for some appreciation in value.

What would have happened without the portability provision? For simplicity, let’s say that Kevin dies later in 2019. Without being able to benefit from the unused portion of Debbie’s exclusion, the $11.4 million exclusion for Kevin in 2019 leaves the $8.6 million subject to estate tax. At the 40% rate, the federal estate tax bill would amount to a whopping $3.44 million.

Although techniques such as a traditional bypass trust may be used to avoid or reduce estate tax liability, this example demonstrates the potential impact of the portability election. It also emphasizes the need for planning.

Other Points of Interest

Be aware that this discussion factors in only federal estate taxes. State estate taxes may also have a significant impact, particularly in some states where the estate tax exemption isn’t tied to the federal exclusion.

Also, keep in mind that, absent further legislation, the exclusion amount is slated to revert to pre-2018 levels after 2025. Portability continues, although, for those whose estates will no longer be fully sheltered, additional planning must be considered.

Furthermore, portability isn’t always the best option. Consider all relevant factors, including nontax reasons that might affect the distribution of assets under a will or living trust. For instance, a person may want to divide assets in other ways if matters are complicated by a divorce, a second marriage, or unusual circumstances.

Details, Details

Every estate plan includes details that need to be checked and rechecked. Our firm can help you do so, including deciding whether portability is right for you.
Contact: Jay Kramer, CPA
Direct: 920.337.4551
Email: jkramer@hawkinsashcpas.com
 Podcast: Tax Refund or Tax Due This Year
With tax day behind us, you have seen first-hand how the new tax bill affected your taxes. With so many moving parts, tax reform affected people in many different ways. For the most part, taxpayers paid less tax, but many still saw their refunds decrease.
Be Ready for Anything with Regular Business Valuations
Do you know the current value of your business? Even if you’re not considering selling your company or otherwise transferring its ownership right now, it could happen sooner than you think.

In some cases, an ownership transfer becomes suddenly appealing when a company struggles to the extent that a sale becomes the best avenue for starting over. But more positive circumstances can drive the decision, too. For example, a small to midsize business might do so well that it receives an acquisition offer that’s too good to pass up.

Whether it’s an impending ownership transfer, or just a need to learn more about your company, it’s important to establish reasonable expectations of what a valuation provides.

Answering the Right Questions

Some owners mistakenly believe that the balance sheet tells how much a company is worth. But most businesses possess goodwill and other intangible assets — as well as unreported liabilities — that don’t show up on the financial statements.

In truth, cost-based valuation metrics aren’t often used in real-world transactions. Instead, the most popular methods for valuing private businesses include the discounted cash earnings, guideline company transactions and capitalization of earnings techniques. Calculating value under these methods requires the expertise of an outside valuation professional.

To better understand the valuation process, answer these basic questions:

  • What’s the purpose? It could be as clear-cut as an impending sale. Or perhaps a divorce is on the horizon, and the owner must determine the value of the business interest that’s includable in the marital estate. In other cases, the valuation may be driven by tax, estate or strategic planning.

  • What’s the appropriate standard of value? Generally, business valuations estimate “fair market value” — the price at which property would change hands in a hypothetical transaction involving informed buyers and sellers not under duress to buy or sell. But some assignments call for a different standard of value.For instance, say you’re contemplating selling to a competitor. In this case, you might be best off determining the “strategic value” of your company — that is, the value to a particular investor, including buyer-specific synergies.

  • What’s the appropriate basis of value? There’s a hierarchy of different types of value based on the degree of control and marketability an interest carries. Investors place premiums on the abilities to 1) control business decisions and 2) sell the interest on the “market” as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

Digging Deeper

Defining the appropriate basis of value in a business valuation isn’t always straightforward. Suppose a business is split equally between two partners. Even though each owner has some control, stalemates could impair decision making.

On the other hand, a 2% owner might possess some elements of control if the remaining shares are divvied up equally between two 49% owners. Definitively establishing the basis of value requires careful consideration of who owns the rest of the business — and how that allocation affects value given applicable state laws and ownership agreements.

Getting it Done Right

Regular valuations can be an important management tool — particularly if you plan to sell or transfer your interest anytime soon. We can explain the valuation process to you further and work with an appraiser to get the job done right.
Contact: Jeff Tillema, CPA
Direct: 608.793.3128
Email: jtillema@hawkinsashcpas.com
Minnesota New Wage Theft Law
Minnesota's new Wage Theft Law became effective on July 1, 2019. The new law amends existing state labor laws and provides for new wage and hour requirements, protections and sanctions. According to the Associated Press, Minnesota will have what sponsors say is the country’s toughest wage theft law. It comes down hard on employers who cheat workers by making it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. An estimated 39,000 Minnesotans annually are victims of wage theft in some form.
The law also includes protections for employees who report wage theft and new enforcement money. Click the link below to review a summary from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.
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I RS Continues Campaign to Encourage Taxpayers to do a Paycheck Checkup
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What Data Does or Does Not Convert from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online?
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TCJA Inspires Many Business Owners to Reconsider Entity Choice
On the surface, switching to (or staying) a C corporation may seem like a no-brainer. But there are many other considerations involved.

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