When It’s Too Good to be True (Tax Shelter Edition)

When reading Tax Court decisions, always be on the lookout for the word “scheme.” It’s usually a heads-up that what you’re reading isn’t going to cut it (from a tax perspective). So when the decision begins, These consolidated cases involve a complex tax shelter scheme featuring four C corporations, five individual shareholder-employees of the C corporations, five employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), five S corporations, and (inevitably) a partnership. [emphasis added] You know things aren’t going to end up well for the petitioners. Rightly concluding that this scheme was too good to be true, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS or respondent) attacked it on numerous grounds for tax years that (owing to calender and fiscal year differences) span 2002-2005. We hold that the “factoring fees” and most of the “management fees” were not deductible expenses of the C corporations but rather were disguised distributions…

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