Charitable Giving Can Enhance Business Succession Plans
Of all the stratagems and financial modeling that advisors explore when engaged in business succession planning with their clients, one aspect frequently gets overlooked: charitable giving. Thats unfortunate, experts say, because a philanthropic component can reap enormous rewards for owners, their childrenand society.
“Planning is a series of integrated events,” says Randy Fox, a certified financial planner with Wealth Strategies Counselors, Naperville, Ill. “The more you can integrate things at the right time using the right tools, the better the outcome will be.”
Adds Scott Keffer, founder and president of Wealth Transfer Solutions, Pittsburgh, Pa.: “Some of the most tax-efficient approaches combine entity planning, business succession planning and charitable planning. The benefits are not arithmetic but geometric when you put them together.”
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Such integrated planning, observers note, yields several benefits that otherwise could not be achieved if the charitable planning were done subsequent to the sale or transfer of the business. Topping the list: tax-avoidance.
By establishing, for example, a charitable remainder trust for a stock redemption plan (or “charitable bailout”), the owner of a C corporation can preserve the business for children while avoiding capital gains on the sale of the business stock.
To that end, the owner transfers a small amount of stock equally to the children by using the annual exclusion and, if necessary, a part of the gift tax exemption. The owner then contributes the balance of the companys stock to the trust in exchange for a lifetime annuity.
Following the transfer, the business buys back (or redeems) the stock for cash, making the formerly minority shareholder children 100% owners of the business. In addition to a life annuity, the technique provides a charitable income tax deduction for a portion of the value of the majority stock given to the trust. When the owner and spouse die, funds remaining in the trust pass to a designated family foundation or charity.
If, however, the owners children are not prepared to take control of the business, the owner could establish a charitable employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). As in the above example, the owner creates a CRT and contributes some portion of company stock to the entity. The ESOP then uses company-provided funds to purchase the owners stock from the trust.
Result: The owner maintains family control of the business and buys time to determine if the son or daughter will be ready to take over the business one day or whether a new owner will need to be found. The CRT again provides a current income tax deduction for the charitable contribution; allows the owner to sell the stock without an immediate capital gains tax; and removes the value of the stock placed in the CRT from the taxable estate.
Beyond the financial advantages, integrated charitable and business succession planning can help lessen frictions between siblings. Michael Kilbourn, president of Kilbourn Associates, Naples, Fla., notes that discussions about transfer of ownership from one generation to the next can ignite passionsparticularly if a son or daughter has, or is believed to have, hidden designs for taking exclusive control of the firm.
“Anytime you have a situation where one child is taking over the business, emotions can run wild,” says Robert ODell, a colleague of Kilbourn and financial advisor at Capital Management Limited, Wheaton, Ill. “When the parents are focused on charitable planning, hostility and fighting between siblings tend to decrease, as everyone has a common purpose.”
Despite the advantages, only a minority of business owners combine charitable and succession planning. Why? In many cases, advisors say, the business owner either is not predisposed to giving or does not believe a charitable component will advance business phase-out objectives.
Or they opt to give in other ways. Tom Henske, a partner with Lenox Advisors, New York, N.Y., says many of his clients sell appreciated securities of companies theyve invested in (other than their own) via a trust. They then use the trusts income stream to fund a permanent life insurance policy to replace the sold assets.
“When presented with the choice of giving away part of the business for charitable purposes and doing charitable planning using other assets, our clients tend to gravitate toward the latter,” says Henske.
One reason may be the perceived shortcoming of the technique in question. Kilbourn notes that the stock redemption plan, while allowing a family to maintain ownership, leaves the younger generation with a lower invested basis in the company than would otherwise be the case. The client might not also like the fact that principal is locked in the CRT for a period of years.
Other clients may view integrated planning as overly long and complex. Given the significant emotional and financial challenges that a business sale frequently engenders, many wonder whether the additional layer of planning will require too much time to implement and maintain.