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March 7th, 2013

 

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The Impact of Recent Tax Law Changes on Business Exit Planning

 
When planning an exit from your business, it is important to know how much of what you ‘get’ for cashing in your business you will actually keep. Equally important for many owners is knowing how that wealth will transfer to their heirs and future generations whose lives will be impacted by your business success. How well you plan for all of this will have both short-term and long-term impacts on your business. And, because taxes play such a critical role in all of these assessments, it is important to understand how the recent compromised agreement in Washington, D.C.-titled the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) – may impact your business exit. Therefore, this newsletter covers the salient points of the new legislation that will likely impact your exit transaction and your future financial legacy.

Income Tax Rates increase for those making $450,000 or more

The negotiations in Congress concluded with the following compromise on Ordinary Income Tax Rates:


Ordinary Income Tax Rates

2012
Law

10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%

2013
ATRA

10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%

The 39.6% tax rate applies to income over $400,000 for singles and $450,000 for married filing jointly.

 

Now, many owners of businesses who are thinking about an exit are running companies that are ‘flow-through’ entities, such as S corporations or LLC’s. It is important to know what ‘income’ would push you into the higher tax brackets where these changes will impact your ‘take-home’ pay. It is likely that you have a combination of W-2 (payroll) income that you take from the business each year as well as profit distributions. It is also likely that you have a number of personal expenses that run through the business.
So, with the new highest tax rate of 39.6% (as opposed to 35%) it is important to know what ‘income’ is going to push you into that next level of taxation and seek guidance from your personal tax professional for specifics relating to your situation. Specifically related to your exit planning, it would be very helpful to know your projected income (and associated tax rate) post-exit so that you can accurately forecast your taxes and ‘net income’ when you complete your exit so that you can meet your post-exit, financial lifestyle goals.
When a business sells via a ‘stock’ sale (not an asset sale) that exchange has the opportunity to be characterized as a ‘capital gain transaction’. Over the past decade, those who have bought and sold securities have enjoyed the benefit of the low capital gains tax rate of 15%. [NOTE: the long-term capital gains tax rate applies to holdings of more than 12 months.]
Heading into the recent negotiations in Congress, there was a lot of speculation as to where this low capital gains tax rate would settle – some even speculated that it could go away all together with future [otherwise] capital gains transactions simply being taxed at ordinary income rates. The ‘sunset’ provision that was in place would have raised the rate from 15% to 20%. In fact, that raise did happen but, again, only for incomes exceeding $450,000. The former and current rates are listed below:

Capital Gains and

other Investment Income

2012 Law

0% and 15% rate




2013 ATRA

0% and 15% and

A 20% rate on income over $ 400,000 for singles and $ 450,000 for
married filing jointly

As mentioned, the sale of your business will likely be characterized as a capital gain transaction if you are able to sell the stock.[NOTE that many smaller transactions (i.e. under $10 million in transaction value) are often structured not as 'stock' purchases, but as 'asset' purchases - again, consult with your tax professional to determine the applicability of these characterizations to your current or future transaction].
Let’s also look at another ‘tax increase’ that went into effect in January of 2013 which was not a part of ATRA but will, nonetheless most likely impact your ‘exit proceeds’.

The AffordableCare Act tax on ‘investment income’ of 3.8 percent

The sale of your business will likely be characterized as’investment income’ and be subject to this additional tax.So, if you are considering cashing in your
business, you want to consult with your tax professional to determine whether
or not you’ll pay an additional 3.8% on your ‘investment income’, which will
further reduce your net proceeds from the exit transaction.

Gift and EstateTax Limits

A topic of large change and debate had been the gift and estate tax limits.We now have clarity around these limits.There is a $5.25 million limit, per person, for estate tax purposes. Although there had been a lot of talk about a limit of $3.5 million surprisingly, the $5.25 million estate limit was maintained (adjusted for inflation). Further, a $5.25 million gift limit was also maintained (with adjustments for inflation), allowing families / owners to transfer as much during their lifetime, without tax, as they would otherwise do at death.The gift limit was a surprise as most expected this limit to revert to $1 million.

Year

Estate Tax
Exemption

Max. Estate Tax Rate

Max. Gift Tax
Credit

Max. Gift Tax

2012

$5.12 million

35%

$5.12 million

35%

2013

$5.25 million

40%

$5.25 million

40%

Note
that state level taxes should always be observed for your complete analysis.


So, for example, business owners who want to transition a
portion of their business to their children can do so at the new higher levels,
reducing the overall gift taxation on the estate.

Concluding Thoughts
In the final assessment, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 fulfilled the expectation that taxes would be going higher. The upside is that we now have some level of certainty as to where the rates will be in the near future so that we can continue some of our modeling and longer-term planning and assessments. And, if you are a business owner who is considering an exit transaction and cashing in your business, we encourage you to seek the counsel of your tax and legal professionals to see how these new rates will impact the ‘net’ proceeds that you will receive.
Copyright Business exit Timing LLC and Pinnacle Equity Solutions @2013
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December 20th, 2012

Eric Hoffer once wrote: “The leader has to be practical and realistic, yet must talk the language of the visionary and be idealistic.” This newsletter further examines Hoffer’s point in that an exiting leader must not only ‘talk the language of the visionary’ but also think in terms of an ‘exit vision’. So much is written on the management and leadership of businesses while so little is written on exit visions. Doesn’t it make sense that a vision for a business includes what will happen when the CEO is no longer in charge? Well for your privately-held business, developing an exit vision and becoming an exiting visionary is critical to achieving your business and personal goals.

Lifestyle vs. Investment

The first limiting factor for the owners of many private businesses is their limited view of the business as providing only a job and a lifestyle for them. Owners who view their business as paying for their lifestyle will struggle with their exit vision because they can only see as far as the ‘bare necessities’. In other words, the objective of the business is not to fulfill a particular business vision. Rather, it is to provide a certain type of lifestyle to the owner while also taking care of the employees, customers, etc. In this limited vision, the owner is only focused on the now—not the future. And, as a result of this limited vision, the owner does not ask ‘how big (and profitable) can this business be?’ Moreover, owners fail to ask ‘how big can this business be without me’? A vision is a necessary and powerful concept. If your current exit vision begins and ends with the bare necessities, merely improving on what used to be, than it is likely to fall short and will likely have a negative impact the success for your exit.

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November 28th, 2012

When owners think about an exit from their business, they often will hire an appraiser to give them a ‘value’ for their company. Also, a well-written exit plan will include certain values for your company that you can use for your overall planning. This newsletter asks a simple question for owners to consider when having their company appraised, namely, do you know which ‘exit value’ you are receiving? There are a number of different types and standards of value that appraisers use and this newsletter is written to educate owners on what to look for when they request an ‘exit value’ for their privately-held company.

Not All Values Are Created Equally, Opinions versus Estimates – Valuations versus Calculations

According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), there are two types of engagements to estimate value—a valuation engagement and a calculation engagement. The valuation engagement results in a ‘conclusion of value’, while the calculation engagement results in a ‘calculated value’. The key distinctions between the two types of engagements are as follows:

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