Abraham Lincoln's Financial Adviser Slept There
BY Lewis Schiff
On Wednesday, Oct. 21 and Thursday, Oct. 22, local members of the Greater New York business community got together on the shores of Stamford, CT, then downtown Manhattan, and finally in an imposing home on a hill in Short Hills, NJ, to discuss a serious topic: year-end tax planning for businesses and business owners.
In Stamford, CT, we were treated to a gorgeous evening in a beautiful new home on the shores of Long Island Sound. The house was "move-in" condition for the first lucky duck ready to fork over $8 million. Throughout the home, original art from the likes of Warhol and others hung on the walls, courtesy of Samuel Owen Gallery, also in Stamford, CT.
In New York, we met in the wood-paneled conference room of Darby and Darby, an intellectual property law firm in downtown Manhattan. If you can imagine floating 42 stories above New York, you can imagine the scene at Darby and Darby.
Finally, in Short Hills, NJ, we gathered in the historic home of Abraham Lincoln's Financial Adviser's home. That's right, Abe's financial advisor slept there. The house, more like a castle, was set on 2+ acres and was modernized from top to bottom over the last 4 years. Buy it for $11.9 million and they'll throw in the squash court.
Okay, enough about real estate. We were together to discuss ways to use advanced financial and tax planning techniques in order to turn 2009 from a crummy year into a so-so year and turn 2010 from a re-building year into an outstanding year.
(NOTE: Abraham Lincoln's financial adviser did not respond to requests to speak at our event. Something about his voice mailbox being full.)
With just 70 days left in the year, our experts were given the difficult task of imparting at least one solid piece of wisdom that the business owner participants could take home to their financial advisers and accountants and apply to their current situation--a challenge, indeed.
Alan Kufeld, a partner at Rothstein Kass, the CPA firm, was first up. Kufeld opened with a game-changer: "forget the conventional wisdom," he said. "After a year of financial turmoil, learn to embrace the 'new normal." Kufeld quickly dove into specifics.
For example, while most business owners are told by their advisers and accountants to speed up expenses at year-end while simultaneously slowing down accounts payable from our clients, Kufeld says that in 2009 that should be reversed. Why?
"With health care legislation in the offing, tax rates are likely to be higher in 2010 than they are in 2009. Why accelerate expenses in 2009 when you can take them in 2010?. The reverse would be true with revenues."
If, like most of us, you believe taxes are going to go up, that little chestnut could save you lots of money. Kudos Kufeld. What else have you got?
"Give part of your company away now, while it's probably worth less than it will be in the future."
Say what, Alan?
"When your company suffers a bad year, that's the perfect time to pass it on to the next generation or place it in a trust. That way, you can get the value of the company out of your estate and into the hands of your children most cost-effectively. In the years to come, when the value increases, that value will not be part of your taxable estate."
POW, I did not expect that. Give away equity when it's worth very little? "Yes," says Kufeld, "and soon, before Washington D.C. takes away some of the advantages."
While the audience was pondering that one and scribbling calculations on scraps of paper to see how much money Kufeld may have saved them, he pulled out his best for last.
For this idea, Kufeld teamed up with high net worth specialist, Frank Seneco, of Seneco & Associates in New Haven, CT. To summarize, Seneco and Kufeld presented a way to effectively create your own liquidity event on your own terms. Using their idea, you can take hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax losses over several years, saving you thousands of dollars in taxes and fund a lifetime pension plan for you and the other owners.
WHACK! Out of the ballpark!
It's called a benefit-focused pension plan and it's been around since 2008. While it's not right for everyone, Kufeld and Seneco walked through the scenario enough to get the audience's juices flowing. "That," Seneco says, "is how you turn a crummy 2009 into a good year and how you turn 2010 and beyond into great years."
In Seneco's scenario, you could create as much as $33,000 per MONTH payments for life out of your business.
Of course, the details are far too complicated to address in a blog. For more about benefit-focused pension planning, consider downloading our new research report for business owners about falling behind on retirement planning, entitled "High & Dry."
The next Inc. Business Owners Council: Greater New York event will occur on Nov. 17 and 18, 2009 in Greenwich, CT, Elizabeth, NJ, and Manhattan. For more information, email "firstname.lastname@example.org".