March 31, 2009
Burke & McCouch: COBRA Strikes Back: Anatomy of a Tax Shelter
Contingent-liability tax shelters are a highly risky business. Mr. Daugerdas and others like him reaped enormous rewards for themselves and their clients, but some of the tax shelters they designed for credulous and wealthy clients have backfired spectacularly. Congress and the Treasury have taken remedial action to shut down abusive tax shelters, and several courts have invoked the longstanding judicial doctrines to strike down transactions that lack economic substance and have no real business or investment purpose, despite purported compliance with the literal terms of the tax laws. The proliferation of abusive tax shelters could never have gotten off the ground without the active participation of high-priced counsel. Upon discovering that the anticipated tax benefits failed to materialize, disgruntled clients have rushed to sue the lawyers, accountants, investment advisers, and banks that created and marketed defective shelters.
This article discusses several challenges faced by Congress, the Treasury, and the courts in dealing with contingent-liability tax shelters. The article examines the role of Daugerdas and his firm in creating and marketing contingent-liability shelters, against the broader background of the tax shelter industry. The article explains the basic structure of the offsetting option transaction and its attempt to manipulate the partnership tax provisions. The article analyzes the contrasting rationales of two recent judicial decisions involving defective tax shelters, and argues in favor of applying Treasury regulations retroactively to shut down contingent-liability tax shelters.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Burke & McCouch: COBRA Strikes Back: Anatomy of a Tax Shelter: