Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More on the Role of Taxes in a Sale of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburghsteelerslogo_2_2I previously blogged the role of taxes in the potential sale of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial on the subject, Pittsburgh Steelers:

The citizens of Pittsburgh are getting an unpleasant lesson in the consequences of punitive taxation, courtesy of their beloved NFL franchise. Inside the Pittsburgh Steeler boardroom, a fraternal squabble is under way over future ownership—thanks in part to a sacking from the realities of estate and capital gains taxes.

One of the league's iconic teams, the Steelers have been owned by the Rooney family since 1933. The five sons of the original owner, Art Rooney, control 80%—and they are getting into their 70s. With the team's value estimated at $700 million or more, the 45% federal death tax rate could put each brother on the hook to the IRS for tens of millions of dollars.

Adding urgency to the Pittsburgh transaction is the prospect of a Democratic President in 2009 who opposes repeal of the death tax and wants to raise the tax rate for capital gains. Barack Obama has promised to raise the rate from 15% to at least 25%, and perhaps the Clinton-era peak of 28%. ...

As for the death tax, ...  Mr. Obama proposes a meager $3.5 million exclusion with a top rate of 45%. ...

When taxes force a family to sell a business, the losers are often the community as much as the next generation, as teams leave and neighborhood fixtures fade away. Mr. Obama is planning to accept his nomination for President in the football stadium of the Denver Broncos in August. The irony will be noted in Pittsburgh, which may lose the Steelers thanks to a tax regime that forces thousands of American families to sell their businesses.

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If the estate taxes is the reason that Dan Snyder owns the Redskins, I might have to change my views on tax policy.


ps: and Congress is thinking about shtuping us with a SECOND "stimulus" check. Tax policy be damned! Gimme gimme gimme!

Posted by: Adjunct Law Prof | Jul 16, 2008 7:40:31 PM

"Minority" and "marketability" discounts of around 50% in total for closely held businesses, which reduce the effective tax rate proportionately, are common. Elaborate arrangements such as "intentionally defective grantor trusts" and "zeroed out GRATs" can transfer assets far in excess of the $10,000 per year annual exclusion and $1 million lifetime exemption to descendants entirely tax free. And estates consisting largely of stock in a closely held business may pay their tax in installments over several years at a modest interest rate.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jul 16, 2008 5:37:01 PM

At what point does the personal responsibility theory of taxation come into play. This article ignores the fact that the value behind the NFL teams was largely created by the city in which the team is based, including municipalities which pay for new stadiums. Waiving the spector that the team will move because the children of the initial owner have a tax bill coming due on their death is ridiculous and should be offensive to the people of Pittsburgh who were responsible for creating that $700 million in wealth for the family.

Posted by: Suzanne L. Wynn, Esq., LLM Tax. | Jul 16, 2008 3:46:18 PM