Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The Eighth Circuit yesterday affirmed the district court's denial of an accountant's attempted use of the 'John Edwards Sub S tax shelter' and required him to treat $91,044 per year as his compensation (and thus subject to the 15.3% Social Security and Medicare taxes), rather than the $24,000 he claimed as wages. (During the years in question, the accountant treated $175,470 and $203,651 as Sub S distributions.) David E. Watson, P.C. v. United States, No. 11-1589 (8th Cir. Feb. 21, 2012):
(1) Watson was an exceedingly qualified accountant with an advanced degree and nearly 20 years experience in accounting and taxation; (2) he worked 35-45 hours per week as one of the primary earners in a reputable firm, which had earnings much greater than comparable firms; (3) LWBJ had gross earnings over $2 million in 2002 and nearly $3 million in 2003; (4) $24,000 is unreasonably low compared to other similarly situated accountants; (5) given the financial position of LWBJ, Watson's experience, and his contributions to LWBJ, a $24,000 salary was exceedingly low when compared to the roughly $200,000 LWBJ distributed to DEWPC in 2002 and 2003; and (6) the fair market value of Watson's services was $91,044. Based on the record, the district court did not clearly err.
Warren Buffett famously draws only a $100,000 salary from Berkshire Hathaway -- although he does not avoid the 12.4% Social Security tax because this is roughly the amount of the FICA wage base ($110,000 in 2012), Buffett is avoiding the 2.9% Medicare tax on the value of his services in excess of $100,000. (Hat Tip: Monty Meyer.) Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- Court Gives IRS Rare Win in 'John Edwards Sub S Tax Shelter' Case (Jan. 24, 2011)
- More on the 'John Edwards Sub S Tax Shelter' (Feb. 6, 2011)
- Schwidetzky: Musings on Watson and the John Edwards Sub S Tax Shelter (June 5, 2011)
- Newt Gingrich Used 'John Edwards Sub S Tax Shelter' to Save $50k in Medicare Taxes (Jan. 23, 2012)