2021 is just about behind us, and 2022 is knocking at the door. What are the 2022 trends in the financial planning advisory space that we consult? We had an opportunity to ask our experts what they see in their respective crystal balls...
Topics: Selling Your Practice, Acquisition, Multi-Generational Ownership, M&A, Business Value, Deal Structure, Financing, Bank Financing, Buying & Selling, State of the Market, Mergers, Tax Regulations, Building Your Team, Valuation & Appraisal, Transactions, Trends
Business succession from parent to child is an age-old practice in human history, from humble cobblers to royal families. The practice stemmed from necessity—parents taught their children the trade they knew in an effort to teach them to survive. What started from necessity became custom and, eventually, tradition. In many professions, this tradition is still a point of pride. Advisory business owners will often see this as the best path to build an enduring practice and retain their client base.
For some advisors, the idea of passing the business to a family member is their preferred choice and seems to be the easiest path forward. One day, the founder steps out and the child steps in. Most advisors even consider gifting their business to their children, with or without a written contract, rather than selling it to them. Here are some simple reasons you should think twice before taking this route.
The IRS Considers Your Business to Have Value
Many advisors think, “I’ll just give my children the business when I’m ready to retire.” We hear this all the time from founding owners whose children work with them in their business. Be wary, though – although certain types of gifts are exempt from this rule, generally speaking, a gift whose value exceeds the annual exclusion is taxable to the giver of the gift and likely will be applied against the giver’s lifetime estate tax exemption.
When one person’s misstep in using a common industry practice gets reported in the press or a blog, a reader may worry if he or she has also strayed. Some have this response to the recent Tax Court case Fleischer v. Commissioner. The many differing opinions and commentaries on that case have advisors asking how this ruling affects their existing entity structures and tax reporting.
Many of the articles on Fleischer either oversimplify the court’s ruling, misinterpret the court’s decision to suggest an advisor with a business entity (either a corporation or a limited liability company) must abandon the entity, or miss the point entirely. The danger in those messages is their failure to understand the details of the Fleischer case, and not emphasizing that in the proper execution of an integrated plan – one that accommodates corporate law, tax law, and FINRA regulations – there would have been a different outcome.
From the Fleischer case, understand this: You won’t have a problem if you do things right. But setting up an entity in a highly regulated industry and operating it correctly is intricate. You cannot do it on LegalZoom or with an attorney or accountant unfamiliar with FINRA regulations. The Fleischer decision does not change the fact that entities are worthwhile for a wide variety of reasons.
The Fleischer Case
In the Fleischer case, the court focused on who controls the earning of the income, citing the two-part test recognized in the 1982 case of Johnson v. Commissioner. In that case, Charles Johnson played for the NBA’s San Francisco (now Golden State) Warriors in the 1970’s. He formed a Panamanian corporation to receive his income from the team. Citing additional precedent, the Johnson court held that the corporation did not meaningfully control Mr. Johnson’s services as a basketball player, nor did the Warriors have notice that its player was contractually affiliated with the entity. For those reasons, passing the player’s salary through the foreign corporation did not shelter Mr. Johnson from employment tax. The Johnson court stated two tests, both of which must be met: