When the Famous Die Without a Will

taxWhen a person of means dies without a will, many tax questions arise.  With the sudden death of Prince last month, many conflicts and confusions have come up: song royalties, real estate and his as-yet unreleased compositions.  A principal issue to contend with is how to establish an aggregate value on his potential that fateful day in April 2016.

According to one expert, Jonathan Blattmachr, Principal in the estate planning advisory group of Pioneer Wealth Partners, this matter will indeed be “very groundbreaking.”  Should the IRS triumph, other famous people might start encouraging their estate planners to modify their image rights.  Nonetheless, Blattmachr pointed out, in Prince’s case the IRS and taxpayers will likely remain stumped, and he thus suggests the value of names and likenesses should be absolved from the estate tax. Instead future earnings as ordinary income (as opposed to capital gains) should be taxed.  In a best case scenario determining the value is “horribly speculative,” Blattmachr noted as “Michael Jackson will be different from Prince who will be different from Madonna.”

So how can mistakes in the Prince case be avoided?  Two years ago, the IRS admitted to having “made a mistake” in valuing Michael Jackson’s estate, most notably that of his “intangible and intellectual property… [and] the value of two trusts he apparently set up to borrow against his assets and to transfer assets to his heirs at minimal tax cost during his life.”

The Jackson matter continues even now.  Indeed, just a few months ago – four years after his death – a new way was discussed on what to do about the tax situation.  The problem is quite extensive.   Matt Kadish of Kadish, Hinkel & Weibel said he was “unaware of any cases to date that have addressed whether the value of a person’s image rights are subject to estate tax, and if so, how to value them.”

Right now the law on Prince’s estate remains “unsettled.” His estate now has nine months to file its tax return and estate his net worth, following which the IRS has three years to challenge it. But should the tax man be deemed to be too demanding the estate could end up in tax court.

Chinese Telecom Company Caught Trying to By-Pass US Law

The US government will restrict ZTE Corp’s ability to acquire US products, due to the company’s attempt to by-pass US law regarding sale of certain items to Iran. In a public notice published by the US Commerce Department, ZTE and three other telecom companies were caught in a scheme to re-export controlled items to Iran, breaking US law.

The notice cited company documents from ZTE which showed that the Chinese maker of mobile handsets was planning to use shell companies to by-pass US laws which restrict the sale of certain kinds of equipment to Iran.

Impact of PATH Act

paperworkThe PATH Act – (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes) is resulting in some quite significant changes to tax laws in America.  The most significant ones can be divided up into three main points:

  1. Those over the age of 70 years and 6 months will be given the opportunity to make direct contributions from their IRA (Individual Retirement Account) to a charitable organization without incurring taxes.
  2. Businesses can immediately deduct as much as $500,000 in capital expenditures.
  3. People will be able to deduct state sales taxes without receipts. One can deduct state and local sales taxes as a substitute for state and local income taxes.

To further clarify matters included in the PATH Act, Anchin Block will be discussing this matter as part of its twice-yearly CEP for CFOs sessions to take place on June 14, at their New York offices. Also at the session, Buy/Sell Agreements, whereby a panel will discuss trends and pitfalls will take place.

Weaker Loonie Luring Tourists North

Canadian Gold Maple Leaf. 1 troy ounce. Reverse. Photo by Basketbread
Canadian Gold Maple Leaf. 1 troy ounce. Reverse. Photo by Basketbread

Despite an exchange rate that only pays 70 Canadian cents on every US dollar, Canadians will still travel to the US twice as much as Americans heading north to Canada.

That declaration comes from a study conducted by the Toronto-Dominion Bank in which economist Derek Burleton analyzed travel between the two countries. The study was focused on how the weak Canadian dollar is effecting travel between the world’s longest undefended international border.

Last year, as most Canadians know quite well, the loonie lost 16 percent of its value last year compared to the US dollar. The Toronto-Dominion Bank believes this figure should remain stable for most of this year, 2016. Therefore, all of the study’s conclusions are based on this assumption.

Burleton found that the weaker Canadian dollar has indeed persuaded Americans to head north. Total visits by Americans to Canada went up by 1.6 percent during the first 11 months of 2015, compared to the same period the year before.

“American visits to Canada are finally picking up,” Burleton said. “With a similar momentum likely to carry over in 2016, American spending in Canada is poised to rise to $9.6 billion Canadian,” Burleton said, “the highest level in over a decade.”

Canadians also will spend much more in the USA than Americans will in Canada.

“Canadian visits south will continue to overshadow American visits north, and Canadians are expected to spend in the U.S. at least double the aggregate amount that Americans will spend in Canada,” Burleton noted.

Keane Buys Trican’s US Division in a $247 Million Deal

Despite the precipitous drop in oil prices, the Keane Group will purchase the US division of a Canadian oil field services company in a bid to grow the company.

James Stewart, CEO of Keane, said that the purchase will more than double the size of the small oil field company.

Last month the two companies, Keane and Trican Well Services, a pressure pumping business based in Calgary, announced that they were in advanced negotiations discussing purchase. The final agreement features Keane paying $200 million in cash for Trican, plus a 10 percent stake in the shares of Keane Group Holdings. The total value of the deal equals $247 million. The deal should be finalized by the middle of March.

“We’ve been a small, well-capitalized completion services company,” Stewart said. “And now is a good time to consolidate. We’re in a unique position … to potentially roll up more companies.”

The finalization of the deal will allow Keane improved access in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas and some of Oklahoma and Kansas. It will also allow Keane a stronger presence in the Permian Basin in West Texas and the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.

“As the market rebounds, we’ll be well positioned,” Stewart said, emphasizing the importance of the  “untapped potential” still remaining in the Permian.

Ted Virtue and M&A in 2016

investmentWhat should financiers be looking for in middle market trends this year? How does 2016 shape up vis-à-vis the M&A market? Ted Virtue, CEO of MidOcean Partners, “an American private equity firm specializing in middle market companies” among other investment areas, leans toward “under-levered” and “under-globalized brands at his firm,” as a general behavioral trend.

But what are other experts in the M&A industry saying is likely for 2016? According to a recent article in The Middle Market, it is important to look at trends from 2015 to get a feel of how 2016 is going to pan out. Low interest rates were a real driver last year and thus for lending purposes, seek out business development companies to look into private markets.

Internationally, it is thought that investors will be moving to Southeast Asia (and away from stagnating China). In America the election should also be watched to look at who will cut “favorable tax treatment of carried interest.” In addition, it is important to note that this will be “the first full year that the Association for Corporate Growth will be monitoring issues like tax on debt interest payments and the designation of joint employer status from its new Washington, D.C., office.”

The Rugged Rugby of Geoff Richards

Savannah's Katie Thomen tackling Lauren "Speedy" Buslinger Raleigh Venom vs. Savannah. Photo by By kelseye
Savannah’s Katie Thomen tackling Lauren “Speedy” Buslinger Raleigh Venom vs. Savannah. Photo by By kelseye

Rugby is a form of football (not soccer) most popularly played in countries throughout the British Commonwealth. First developed at the Rugby School in Warwickshire in the 1830s, it became widespread and popular in the mid-19th century. Today there are two main types of Rugby played; rugby league and rugby union. These two forms of the game are quite similar, but they diverge with different sets of rules.

Geoff Richards is a former rugby union player and also served as a coach. In 2006 Geoff Richards was England Women’s Rugby coach when he challenged New Zealand in the last game of the IRB Rugby World Cup. The match took place at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Canada.

This match was incredibly a deja vu of a game that took place four years earlier, in 2002. That tournament finale ended with a score of 19-9, the Black Ferns taking the championship. Sadly, the Red Roses of England did not have even one victory over their arch rivals from New Zealand since their win in 2001 at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium.
Geoff Richards said this about the upcoming game:

“This is our best and strongest squad and certainly a very exciting team. We are solid up-front and we have a lot of pace in the backs.

“There’s a very positive mood in the camp, from the players all the way through to the management team, but this is going to be our toughest challenge yet.

“To beat the Black Ferns, primary source of possession is crucial and also how we defend. The battle up-front is where most games are won and lost so if we can really put pressure on them and get into their faces then let’s see how they handle things under pressure.”

State Street to Open Office in Copenhagen

State Street Headquarters. Photo by Garrett A. Wollman
State Street Headquarters. Photo by Garrett A. Wollman

State Street, the world’s third largest investment manager and second largest custodian, is planning on opening a new office in Copenhagen. The current amount of AUM is estimated at 190,000 billion kroner. ($21.877 trillion)

“We have been operating in the Nordic countries for 20 years and we already have several customers in the market, but we have never had a local presence,” said Oliver Berger, the head of State Street’s solutions for shareholders in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Berger says State Street hopes to tap into the huge amount of savings in the Nordic countries, with an estimated 9,442 billion kroner. Since State Street is one of the largest equity funds in the world, they could create an anonymous private equity index based on customer data and use it to compete with local banks such as Danske Bank, Nordea and SEB.

State Street is the second oldest financial institution in the United States, founded in 1792 with its international headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts.

Marc Lasry’s Economic Expectations


Marc Lasry
Marc Lasry

Marc Lasry, co-founder of Avenue Capital Group, has a positive outlook for his firm and funds this year.

According to Bloomberg, 2011 proved a challenging year for Avenue, but one of its investments is still going strong: European vice.

“An earlier European fund that invested more than $2.6 billion in pubs, casinos and other beaten-down assets has generated average annualized returns of 19.3 percent since it began in May 2008, ranking it in the top 25 percent of its peers, according to research group Preqin Ltd.,” Bloomberg wrote.

Learn About Finance from Halloween Candy

candy_5_by_silvermoonlight217-d3k9u89Not only is Halloween a great day for kids and their dentists, it also presents a wonderful opportunity to teach the next generation about managing money.

Many people don’t realize that Halloween is often and expensive occasion for families. The National Retailer Federation says that consumers will most likely spend almost $7 billion on all the trappings of a “proper” Halloween. Into the budget go items such as decorations, costumes, and candy. Even pets sometimes get costumes- to the tune of $350 million. The NRF says that each shopper will spend an average of $74 on the holiday.

Don’t despair. Get your kids in on the planning, and you can teach them some great lessons about watching where their money is going.

1.    Comparison shopping- using great apps like ShopSavvy or RedLaser, or by simply comparing prices on-line and in stores, children can learn that there is often a great deal of variance in what stores charge for their goods.

2.    Never pay retail- watch for specials, reduced-price sales and other events that can slash prices way down.

3.    Buying in bulk- stores like Sam’s Club or Costco discount items when purchased in larger quantities. This is a great way to buy all the candy you need.

4.    Delayed gratification- one great lesson to impart to children is the importance of not acting impulsively, especially when it comes to spending money. If you see something you like, but don’t really need, wait a day or two, or even longer, and see if its appeal hasn’t faded. This is a great way to save lots of money.

You can decide ahead of time with your children how much money you think a reasonable amount to spend on Halloween, and curb spending to match your budget. This is a great lesson in the value of hard-earned dollars versus the frivolous nature of a holiday like Halloween.