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Leigh-Alexandra Basha focuses her practice on domestic and international estate and tax planning. She counsels an affluent international client base on a wide range of sophisticated matters, including estate and trust administration, family wealth preservation, tax compliance, as well as business succession, expatriation and pre-immigration planning. Leigh is head of the Firm’s Washington, DC, Private Client Practice Group. Read Leigh-Alexandra Basha's full bio.

On December 13, 2017, the US Tax Court (Tax Court) held that a family office was appropriately treated as a business, and permitted to deduct its expenses pursuant to Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 162. In Lender Management LLC v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2017-246, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) argued that the taxpayer’s expenses should be properly claimed pursuant to Code Section 212 because the family office was not a business for federal income tax purposes, and instead its expenses were merely costs of its investment activities. Whether or not a family office is a business is important because deductions under Code Section 212 are substantially limited.

The taxpayer was the family office to the Lender’s Bagels fortune. It was owned by two Lender family trusts. In 2010 and 2011, the taxpayer reported net losses on its returns and reported net income in 2012 and 2013. The taxpayer provided direct management services to three limited liability companies (LLCs), each of which elected to be treated as a partnership. The owners of the LLCs were the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the founder.

Continue Reading Court Rules That a Family Office Is a Business!

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently offers non-compliant US taxpayers several different relief programs in which to report foreign assets and/or income and become compliant with US rules related to the disclosure of foreign assets. One option is the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP).  Another is the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures (SFCP).  SFCP is further bifurcated into two sub-programs—one for US residents (Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures or “SDOP”) and one for non-US residents (Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures or “SFOP”).  Each program has its own set of tailored procedures and eligibility requirements.

The critical differences between OVDP and SFCP are: (1) the non-willfulness requirement; (2) the look-back period; and (3) the amounts of penalties the US taxpayer must pay.  Specifically, OVDP does not require the US taxpayer to certify that his or her failure to disclose foreign assets was non-willful.  On the other hand, SFCP requires the US taxpayer to certify that his or her failure to disclose foreign assets was non-willful and to also include a narrative explaining such non-willful conduct.  The incentive to demonstrate non-willfulness can be significant.  In general, US taxpayers who enroll in OVDP must pay a 27.5 percent penalty (and in some cases a 50 percent penalty) of the highest aggregate value of undisclosed foreign assets for the OVDP disclosure period (eight years).  However, US taxpayers who enter SDOP must only pay a five percent penalty of undisclosed foreign assets during the disclosure period (three years), and US taxpayers who enter SFOP pay no penalty. Continue Reading Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Update