Valuation Discounts

One of the primary objectives of estate planning is to arrange for the transfer of wealth to the next generation at the lowest possible cost. For large estates, the most significant cost is the gift and estate tax. These two tax regimes are essentially a single tax imposed on total lifetime gifts plus the value of property transferred at death. As mentioned in a previous post, gifting during lifetime can be part of an estate planning strategy.

For a gifting example, assume a gift tax rate of 40% and a donor who has previously utilized his or her entire tax exemption and who desires to make a gift of $1,000,000 of a $4,000,000 investment in a publicly-traded company.

After making the gift of the $1,000,000 asset, the donor will pay a $400,000 gift tax. Obviously, a key factor in the calculation of the gift tax is the valuation of the stock that is the subject of the gift. In this case, the valuation is straight-forward because the stock is easy to sell and has a ready market.

However, consider the gift of a small, privately-owned family business. In this case, the value of the asset will reflect the fact that there is not a ready market for the business; it is more difficult to sell. In addition, the value of a minority interest in a private business will reflect a lower value if the owner does not have managerial control.

For planning purposes, both the "lack of control" and "lack of marketability" discounts can be effectuated in not only the small, privately-owned family business context, but also for nearly any other asset. For example, suppose that the owner of the $4,000,000 stock investment first transfers the stock into a limited partnership. Subsequently, if the owner transfers a 25% limited partnership interest to a donee, the value of the gift for gift tax purposes will be less than $1,000,000.

This is because there is not a ready market for a privately-owned partnership interest. Furthermore, instead of owning $1,000,000 worth of publicly traded stock outright, the donee merely owns a 25% limited interest in a private partnership. Since the donee lacks managerial control over that interest, it does not matter that the underlying asset is publicly-traded stock; the lack of control discount would apply in addition to the lack of marketability discount.

If the total valuation discount in this case works out to be 30%, this results in a gift valuation of $700,000 instead of $1,000,000. This results in an accompanying gift tax of $280,000 instead of $400,000, an immediate cash savings of $120,000 simply by utilizing the limited partnership.

Source: Valuation, Jonathan C. Lurie and Edwin G. Schuck, Jr., The American Law Institute - American Bar Association Continuing Legal Education, 2008