Subject: Men, Boys, Price, Toys
How much is a classic bright-red Ferrari worth? Well, if it’s the 1957 335 S Spider Scaglietti that the French Bardinon family auctioned earlier this month, the answer is €32 million, or around $35.8 million. But if there isn’t a convenient auction to establish how much someone will pay for something, and you need to set a price, how exactly do you go about establishing a number?
Here’s where this week’s story starts. Pierre Bardinon was a French leather-goods heir whose family manufactured, among other items, bomber jackets for the U.S. Air Force. At a young age, he fell in love with car racing and Ferraris, eventually assembling a collection of over 70 of them. (No word on how many were candy-apple red.) He even dedicated the family’s chateau at Mas du Clos to the sport, adding a two-mile track and car museum.
Bardinon sold some of those cars during his lifetime. But when he died in 2012, he still had 20 left. His family valued that remaining collection of 20 at €70 million for estate-tax purposes. But since then, prices for the exotic Italian cars have accelerated nearly as fast as the cars themselves, and today the collection could be worth more like €200 million. Now French tax authorities may take another look.
Estate taxes are a whole different animal than income taxes. The rules themselves aren’t especially complicated. The tax doesn’t kick in until your taxable estate tops $5.45 million ($10.9 million for married couples). And the rate itself is a flat 40%. (French rates on Bardinon’s Ferraris are even higher at 45%.) The real issue is assigning values to assets. How much exactly is everything worth?
If an estate consists of publicly-traded securities, that’s easy to determine. Throw in some real estate or a closely-held business, and it gets a little tougher. Bring on the appraisers! And if there are collectibles or other hard-to-value assets — like Bardinon’s Ferraris — that’s when things get really sticky.
For 2013, the IRS got just 33,719 estate tax returns. However, they audited a hearty 8.5% of them (versus just 0.9% for individual income tax returns). 3,359 of those returns reported assets over $10 million — and the IRS audited a whopping 27% of those. In fact, experienced estate-tax preparers go into the job assuming their returns will be audited.
Naturally, most families want to lowball the value of their assets. And it’s not necessarily hard to find an appraiser to go along. But the IRS has their own resources to fight back. When it comes to art, for example, the Service keeps an in-house staff of appraisers and experts. When that’s not enough firepower, they also maintain an Art Advisory Panel, made up of two dozen scholars, curators, and dealers with expertise in a variety of areas. In 2014, the panel looked at 159 items and adjusted their values up by $27.8 million. That’s an extra $11 million or so in tax.
They say that “he who dies with the most toys, wins.” And we realize you’ll probably consider yourself fortunate if you make it to the finish line with one Ferrari in your garage. (Can’t drive more than one at a time, anyway, right?) But if you do have that good fortune, remember that smart planning will be the key to helping your family keep as many of your toys as possible. So ask us how we can help!
Subject: Mickelson Lands in the Rough
Spring is here, and golfers across the country are busting out their loudest pants to hit the links. Tiger Woods is taking a break from chasing pancake-house waitresses to shank wedges into water hazards. And Phil Mickelson, everyone’s favorite lefty champ, is struggling with a different sort of hazard right now… specifically, legal problems over a hole-in-one he shot on Wall Street four years ago.
Phil’s a successful guy by most measures. Forbes magazine ranks him #8 in their latest list of highest-earning athletes. They estimate he took home $51 million last year, including $2.8 million in tournament winnings and an enviable $48 million more in endorsements.
But he seems to have a harder time managing his money than most $51-million-a-year guys. He’s complained that taxes slice 62% off his income, which makes ends harder to meet. He’s even said he passed on buying a piece of his hometown San Diego Padres due to high state taxes.
Mickelson also seems to have an appetite for gambling. But sometimes luck works in his favor. Back in 2012, he found himself in hock to a big-time sports better named Billy Walters. At one point, Walters hinted it might be a good time to invest in Dean Foods. Mickelson sank $2.4 million into the stock. A week later, it spiked 40% on positive earnings news. The very next day, Mickelson sold for a $932,000 gain and paid his debt to Walters.
Last week we discovered how Mickelson teed up such a lucky shot: the government announced insider trading and securities fraud charges against Walters and former Dean Foods chair Thomas Davis. Walters, who allegedly used insider tips to enrich himself by $40 million, says he looks forward to defending himself in court. He’ll start out from a poor lie, though — Davis has already pled guilty to 12 counts, and even confessed to throwing a “burner” cellphone he got from Walters into a creek after FBI agents visited his home.
Mickelson was named as a “relief defendant,” which means he’s not actually charged with a crime. (If you’ve got to be a “defendant,” that sure sounds like the way to go.) So he’s not headed to rich-guy jail like his pal Walters and Davis appear to be. But he does have to give back the $932,000. And that raises an interesting tax question. He paid the tax on the gain when he made it — so does he get it back now that it’s gone?
You might think he could just take a mulligan and amend his 2012 return. But that’s not how taxes work — every year stands on its own.
Yes, he can take a capital loss for the repayment in 2016. But unless he has an equivalent amount in gains to report, that may not give him the full benefit of the deduction this year.
His best option may be Code Section 1341, which may let him calculate the tax he paid on the gain in 2012 and essentially take it as a credit against this year’s bill, without actually “deducting” it in 2016.
In short, careful planning should help Mickelson turn his tax bogey back into a par. And it can do the same thing for you, even if you’re not fading six-figure purses and seven-figure endorsements. Remember that the next time you get a hot stock tip, and call us first!