Recent Articles

May 2017 : Valuing a Small Minority Interest in a Large Personal Services Firm

Michigan Family Law Journal : TAX TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS Feature

by Joseph W. Cunningham, JD, CPA

Excerpt:

In recent columns (October 2016 and March 2017), various aspects of using “value to the owner,” sometimes referred to as “Holder’s Interest” value, were presented.

Background

As noted in the October column, the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled in a number of cases that if a business providing personal services is worth more to the owner than the price at which it could be sold, the value for divorce purposes is value to the owner, unless there is reason to believe the enterprise will be sold. Kowalesky v. Kowalesky, 148 Mich App 151; 384 NW2d 112 (1986), and several other Court of Appeals (COA) cases cited in the column.

As noted in the March column, the underlying logic is as follows:

If there is no intent to sell or discontinue a business or professional practice, it should be valued for divorce based on its intrinsic value to the owner on a going concern basis. The financial benefits from that value are what have been conferred on the family while intact and will be conferred solely on the owner post-divorce.

If there is no intent to sell, under what rationale should any value other than the value based on current financial benefits provided by the enterprise be used in a divorce settlement?

No other value is relevant to this family or, hence, to this divorce.

Application to Small Minority Interest in a Large Firm

There are many large law firms, accounting firms, engineering firms, medical practices, etc. operating in Michigan. How is the “value to the owner” determined for a member holding a minority interest in such an enterprise?

Binding “Buy/Sell” Agreements Generally Not Applicable

Most large personal service firms require individual members to sign binding agreements providing (1) restrictions on transfer and (2) a set price or formula to determine the price of a member’s interest on termination. Quite often such prices include no goodwill value.

It is well established that such agreements are not determinative of value for divorce because none of the events to which they apply–death, disability, or termination of interest for other reasons–are occurring.

Valuing Entire Firm and Applying Member’s Ownership Percentage Is Generally Not Representative of Value

For example, assume two partners—A and B—work at a large accounting rm. Both own 1% of the practice. But, A makes $500,000 annually while B makes $300,000. This disparity is due to different performance levels which may ultimately result in A being awarded a higher ownership interest than B, but currently they both own 1%.
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Continued in PDF file below… “Valuing a Small Minority Interest in a Large Personal Services Firm”
View / Download May 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

Excerpt:

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.
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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)

March 2017: Value to the Owner Cuts Both Ways

Michigan Family Law Journal : TAX TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS Feature

by Joseph W. Cunningham, JD, CPA

Excerpt:

It was recently asserted in a case that if a business could be sold for more than it is worth to the owner, then the higher sale value should be used for divorce settlement purposes.

This case involved a minority shareholder who had no authority to sell the business, and the shareholders holding a majority interest had no intention of selling the company.

As recently summarized this column (October 2016), the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled in a number of cases that if a business providing personal services is worth more to the owner than the price at which it could be sold, the value for divorce purposes is value to the owner – sometimes called “holder’s interest value” – unless there is reason to believe the enterprise will be sold.

But what about the reverse situation – the sale value – that is, fair market value (FMV) – is higher than the value to the owner?

Premise of Value to Owner

If there is no intent to sell or discontinue a business or professional practice, it should be valued for divorce based on its intrinsic value to the owner on a going concern basis. The financial benefits from that value are what have been conferred on the family while intact and will be conferred solely on the owner post-divorce.

Support – Kowalesky, 148 Mich App 151 (1986) and several other Court of Appeals (COA) cases (see October 2016 Tax Trends column).

Logic – If there is no intent to sell, under what rationale should any value other than the value based on current – financial benefits provided by the business be used in a divorce settlement?

No other value is relevant to this family or, hence, to this divorce.

Value to Owner Cuts Both Ways

Value to Owner Higher than FMV –
……

Continued in PDF file below… “Value to the Owner Cuts Both Ways”
View / Download March 2017 Article – PDF File

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

February 2017: Dependency Exemptions for Divorced or Separated Parents

Michigan Family Law Journal : TAX TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS Feature

by Joseph W. Cunningham, JD, CPA

Excerpt:

At this time of year, questions often arise as to which of two parents—recently divorced or presently separated—is entitled to the dependency exemption for a child of the marriage.

General Rule under IRC Section 152(e)

IRC Section 152(e) provides a special rule for the right to claim an exemption of a child of divorced or separated parents who, for the year in question:

  • Are divorced or separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance at year end; or,
  • Are separated under a written separation agreement at year end; or,
  • Have lived apart at all times during the last six months of the year.
  • And, on a combined basis, had custody of the child for more than half the year; and,
  • On a combined basis, provided more than half the child’s support for the year (support received from a new spouse of a remarried parent is considered provided by that parent).

If these conditions are satisfied, the custodial parent (defined as the parent having physical custody for more than half the year) is automatically entitled to the exemption for a child regardless of:

  • of what the decree or agreement provides
  • which parent furnished more than half of the child’s support.

Waiver Exception to General Rule

For any specified year, or years, or for all future years, the custodial parent may release his or her right to claim the exemption for a child to the noncustodial parent.
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Continued in PDF file below… “Dependency Exemptions for Divorced or Separated Parents”
View / Download February 2017 Article – PDF File

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

January 2017 : 2017 Federal Income Tax Rates & Brackets, Etc., Selected IRS Publications, and Attorney “Tax Deduction” Letters

Michigan Family Law Journal : TAX TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS Feature

by Joseph W. Cunningham, JD, CPA

Excerpt:

In Rev. Proc. 2016-55 (IRB 2016-45), the IRS released the 2017 tax rates applicable to taxable income of taxpayers ling tax returns as single, married filing jointly, or head of household.

[TABLE INCLUDED IN PDF FILE]

Standard Deduction

  • Single … $6,350; $7,900 if 65 Years Old
  • Married Filing Jointly … $12,700; $13,950 if One Spouse is 65, $15,200 if Both Are 65
  • Head of Household … $9,350; $10,900 if 65

Personal Exemption

The personal exemption for 2017 is $4,050. However, 2% of the personal exemption is “phased out” – or reduced – for each $2,500, or part of $2,500, if a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds the statutory threshold for subject filing status, as follows:

[TABLE INCLUDED IN PDF FILE]

Long-Term Capital Gain Rates

  • 0% for taxpayers in the 10% or 15% brackets.
  • 15% for:
    • Single Filers with taxable income between $37,950 and $416,700
    • Married Filing Jointly with taxable income between $75,900 and $470,700
    • Head of Household with taxable income between $50,800 and $444,550
  • 20% for taxpayers with taxable incomes exceeding the high end of the above ranges

Selected IRS Publications
……

Continued in PDF file below… “2017 Federal Income Tax Rates & Brackets, Etc., Selected IRS Publications, and Attorney “Tax Deduction” Letters”
View / Download January 2017 Article – PDF File

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