June / July 2017 : Expediting the Business/Professional Practice Valuation Process

Michigan Family Law Journal : TAX TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS Feature

by Joseph W. Cunningham, JD, CPA


When a business or professional practice is involved in a divorce, there is often considerable difficulty and expense in determining a settlement value acceptable to both parties. This frequently is a major impediment to reaching settlement.

The fees to value a business or professional practice – and time required – can be significant, especially if two – or three – valuation experts are involved.

The following presents two methods to facilitate resolution of the valuation issue on a cost-effective, expeditious basis.

Abbreviated valuation analysis for mediation and/or settlement negotiations is often effective at providing a reliable value without “going the whole 9 yards” on the valuation process.

Essentially the business valuation expert performs a sufficient level of analysis to enable him/her to provide a reliable estimate of value–or range of values–for settlement purposes. The expert will provide well-footnoted valuation schedules and a summary report if requested.

The expert will generally be available for mediation to explain the valuation analysis.

The expert could be a “neutral” working on behalf of both parties; or, each party may hire an expert to perform an abbreviated valuation analysis. If the case is not resolved at mediation, the expert(s) can perform a more comprehensive analysis and report letter for trial or arbitration – generally with no duplication of effort.

Not all businesses are suitable for this approach. Some have too much uncertainty about the future such that an in depth analysis is required. However, based on the author’s experience, the abbreviated valuation approach applies to the vast majority of companies and professional practices.

If effective, this approach saves time and fees. The cost is generally about half the fee for a comprehensive valuation analysis and report.

Use of a neutral appraiser working on behalf of both parties is often an effective method for resolving the valuation issue on an expeditious, cost-effective manner.

It is common for each party to retain a business valuation expert. But, it is not uncommon that the values calculated by such experts are meaningfully different. If they cannot resolve the disparity in values, often a third expert is engaged to opine on value–causing considerable delay and additional fees.

However, if the parties can agree on one business appraiser at the outset, they can avoid the possible “battle of experts”. They can also save time, fees and emotion. Experienced family law practitioners know and can usually agree on a business appraiser with a reputation for competence and integrity.

When using a neutral, it is often advisable to reserve the right to have his/her valuation analysis reviewed for reasonableness by another expert. This offers some protection against a valuation analysis performed erroneously by the neutral. But, to preserve the benefits of using a neutral, the review should be limited to a “reasonableness check,” not a full-blown valuation analysis.


(see PDF below for example details)

Continued in PDF file below… “Expediting the Business/Professional Practice Valuation Process”
View / Download June 2017 Article – PDF File

Complete Michigan Family Law Journal available at: Michigan Bar website – Family Law Section (subscription required)

April 2017 : Estimated Tax Payments; Tax Refunds / Overpayments

Michigan Family Law Journal : TAX TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS Feature

by Joseph W. Cunningham, JD, CPA


Estimated tax payments made–and/or taxes withheld – during the year of divorce may be a marital asset. Tax refunds, or overpayments applied to next year’s tax, attributable to tax payments made during marriage may also be a marital asset.

Or it may cut the other way–that is estimated tax payments and/or taxes withheld may be less than the actual tax on marital income received and shared during the year of divorce.

In this regard, note the following:

  1. Separate Returns for Year of Divorce – Whether divorcing parties can file a joint return or must file separate returns depends on their marital status as of December 31. If divorced as of that date, they must file separate returns for their respective separate incomes and deductions.
  2. Estimated Payments are Automatically Credited to the Husband – Since the husband’s social security number (SSN) is generally listed first on joint estimated payment vouchers (Form 1040ES) made during marriage, such payments will automatically be credited to him unless there is a written alternative provision agreed on by the parties.
    – The same applies to tax overpayments on the parties’ last joint return applied to the following year’s tax.
  3. Estimated Tax Payments and Taxes Withheld during Marriage are Marital Funds – Absent unusual circumstances, estimated tax payments and taxes withheld during marriage are made with marital money – essentially half by each party.

The above matters are often not addressed in divorce settlements. The following presents (1) observations on such tax payments and (2) applicable tax law.

Tax Payments Made during the Year of Divorce

Example – Assume the following alternative facts for joint estimated tax payments made by – and/or withheld on behalf of – H during the year of a divorce for which the judgment is entered on December 30.

[… Table with Example Data (see PDF below) …]

So, in Case #1, H will receive a windfall unless W’s attorney identifies the overpayment and makes an offsetting adjustment. Half of H’s $10,000 overpayment was made with W’s share of marital funds.
In Case #3, it is H’s attorney who needs to (1) identify that H will pay $10,000 of his own funds on income equally shared with W and (2) make an o setting adjustment. When paying the $10,000, H will, in effect, be paying both his and W’s $5,000 shares of the tax on marital income.

Agreement to Apportion Joint Estimated Tax Payments

IRS Publication 504 – “Divorced or Separated Individuals” – provides that divorced parties may agree on the division of joint estimated tax payments made during marriage.

Continued in PDF file below… “Estimated Tax Payments; Tax Refunds / Overpayments”
View / Download April 2017 Article – PDF File

Complete Michigan Family Law Journal available at: Michigan Bar website – Family Law Section (subscription required)

April 2015 : Four Federal Income Provisions Relating to Divorced or Legally Separated Parents Providing Child Support

Michigan Family Law Journal : TAX TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS Feature

by Joseph W. Cunningham, JD, CPA


The following presents basic information on four federal income provisions relating to divorced or legally separated parents providing child support for one (or more) dependent child. These provisions (1) often provide significant tax savings – particularly to parties of modest means – and (2) are often overlooked by divorce counsel who can provide a valuable service by advising clients to check to see if they qualify for any of such tax benefits.

Dependency Exemptions General Rule

IRC Section 152(e) provides that if the parents, on a combined basis, (1) provide more than half a child’s support for the year and (2) have physical custody for more than half the year, then the parent having physical custody for more than half the year (the custodial parent) is entitled to the exemption.

The custodial parent may “release” the exemption to the other parent by executing a written waiver for (1) one year, (2) a specific number of years, or (3) all future years. IRS Form 8332 is the waiver that the custodial parent must execute to release the exemption. e non-custodial parent must attach the executed Form 8332 to his/her tax return for the year(s) for which the exemption has been released.

Other Aspects of the Dependency Exemption

  • The above applies to parents living apart for the last six months of the year as well as to divorced or legally separated parents.
  • “Physical custody” for more than half the year is deter- mined based on overnights. If overnights are equal, the parent with the higher adjusted gross income is deemed the custodial parent.
  • The waiver can be used to, effectively, provide that the parents will claim the exemption in alternating years.
  • Support provided by a parent’s new spouse, or his/her parents, is deemed provided by the parent.
  • The custodial parent may revoke the waiver by executing Part III of Form 8332. Such a revocation applies to the succeeding tax year.
  • The federal income tax exemption amount is $4,000 for 2015.

Phase-Out of the Tax Benefit of Personal and Dependency Exemptions

The tax benefit of personal and dependency exemptions is phased out for high income taxpayers.

The adjusted gross income (AGI) amounts at which the phase-out applies are as follows for 2015:
(Table shown in PDF below)

A taxpayer’s deduction for personal and dependency exemptions is reduced by 2% for each $2,500, or fraction thereof, that his/her AGI exceeds the above threshold amounts.

Example: A single individual has a $300,000 AGI. In addition to his personal exemption, his ex-wife has released the dependency exemption to him for their minor child who lives with her. The phase-out works as follows:

  • Two exemption deductions unreduced – 2 x $4,000 = $8,000
  • Number of $2,500 amounts, or a fraction there- of, by which AGI exceeds threshold – $300,000 – $258,2500/$2,500 = 17
  • Percent reduction in exemption deduction – 2% x 17 = 34%
  • Reduced exemption deductions – 100% – 34% = 66% x $8,000 = $5,280

Practice Pointers

Continued in PDF file below… “Four Federal Income Provisions Relating to Divorced or Legally Separated Parents Providing Child Support”
View / Download April 2015 Article – PDF File

Complete Michigan Family Law Journal available at: Michigan Bar website – Family Law Section