Tag: Interest

Proposed Regulations May Affect Fee Waivers

David I. Shapiro is a is a tax partner resident at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. This post is based on a Fried Frank publication authored by Mr. Shapiro, Michelle GoldBrian Kniesly, and Christopher Roman.

The Department of the Treasury and the IRS have issued proposed regulations regarding “disguised payments for services” under Section 707(a)(2)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code. The proposed regulations appear to be primarily focused on management fee waivers (and similar arrangements), but could also affect certain aspects of the tax treatment of carried interest.

Management fee waivers are a planning technique seen mostly in the private equity fund industry, where a fund manager waives a share of its management fee in exchange for a share of future profits (that is separate from any carried interest otherwise payable), often in amounts that are intended to replicate the foregone management fees. Management fee waivers are generally intended to achieve certain benefits, including deferring the receipt of taxable income by the fund sponsor, allowing the fund sponsor to meet its capital commitment to a fund on a non-cash basis, and providing for potentially more favorable tax rates applicable to individuals (i.e., if the underlying share of profits is comprised of long-term capital gain). Management fee waivers have been utilized in different forms, over many years, including arrangements which effectively amount to a package of a higher carried interest and a lower management fee, as well as arrangements which are structured as annual elective waivers. Different arrangements vary in the manner and priority in which waived amounts are paid out of future partnership profit.


Alternatives to LIBOR

Joseph A. Grundfest is the W. A. Franke Professor of Law and Business at Stanford University Law School. The following post is based on an article co-authored by Professor Grundfest and Rebecca Tabb.

Revelations that bank traders attempted to manipulate LIBOR, the London Interbank Offer Rate, on a widespread and routine basis over the course of many years have rocked the global financial community and fueled international calls for reform. In response, the U.K. Government completely overhauled the governance of LIBOR, adopting in full the recommendations of the Wheatley Review, an independent review of LIBOR led by Martin Wheatley, CEO of the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK. Among other reforms, effective April 1, 2013, both “providing information in relation to” LIBOR and administering LIBOR are regulated activities in the United Kingdom. In addition, a new, independent administrator will provide oversight of LIBOR. NYSE Euronext, selected as the first administrator under the new regime, will begin oversight of LIBOR at the beginning of next year.

These reform efforts are an important first step towards restoring the credibility of LIBOR as an interest rate benchmark. The reforms instituted to date, however, do not address more fundamental concerns with LIBOR. In particular, even non-manipulated submissions sometimes bear little relation to actual market transactions because few market transactions occur in certain interbank unsecured lending markets, particularly in times of market stress. As Mervyn King has observed, LIBOR “[i]s in many ways the rate at which banks do not lend to each other…it is not a rate at which anyone is actually borrowing.”


Corporate Tax Reform

Editor’s Note: Robert Pozen is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. This post is based on a Tax Notes article written by Mr. Pozen and Lucas W. Goodman, titled “Capping the Deductibility of Corporate Interest Expense,” available here.

Amid the current debate over tax policy in Washington, there is a bipartisan consensus on one issue: the corporate tax rate, which is currently 35 percent, should be reduced to roughly 25 percent. At the same time, budgetary pressures preclude any significant increase in the deficit to accomplish corporate tax reform.

In light of these competing demands, most corporate tax reformers advocate broadening the corporate tax base to pay for any rate reduction. Unfortunately, few politicians have put forth base-broadening measures that would generate revenue sufficient to significantly lower the corporate tax rate on a revenue-neutral basis.

In fact, revenue-neutral corporate income tax reform is likely to be very difficult, because corporate tax expenditures represent a relatively small portion of total corporate tax revenues. A preliminary analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation suggested that the elimination of all corporate tax expenditures—except for the deferral of tax on foreign source profits, a provision whose repeal would be politically and economically infeasible—would allow for the corporate tax rate to be reduced to only 28 percent.

Therefore, if policymakers want to reduce the corporate tax rate on a revenue-neutral basis, they will likely have to adopt other types of reforms to broaden the corporate tax base. Ideally, those reforms should offer the potential for significant revenue gains and reduce economic distortions.


Replacing the LIBOR with a Transparent and Reliable Index

The following post comes to us from Rosa M. Abrantes-Metz, Principal at Global Economics Group and Adjunct Associate Professor at New York University Stern School of Business, and David S. Evans, Chairman of the Global Economics Group in the firm’s Boston office.

Our LIBOR Reform Articles describe the main problems with the current LIBOR setting, put forward a proposal on how to reform LIBOR through a committed quote system (“CLIBOR”), and explain why the final Wheatley Review proposal on how to reform LIBOR, and its reasons for stopping short of our proposals, are not satisfactory for putting LIBOR on solid ground.

We have developed an alternative process of providing and disseminating reliable information on interbank lending and borrowing that we call “Committed LIBOR” or “CLIBOR.” We submitted this to the Wheatley Review for its consideration. The new process would stand on three pillars: Commitment, Transparency, and Governance.


A Simple Tax Proposal to Improve Financial Stability

Ivo Welch is the J. Fred Weston Chair in Finance and Distinguished Professor of Finance at UCLA.

It is hard to imagine a financial crisis that is not ultimately caused by creditors who had taken on too much debt. Debt is the root cause of most corporate financial failures and, if a snowball effect sets in, the root cause of financial system failure. Of course, debt also has advantages. Without debt, many privately and socially valuable projects could never be undertaken. Still, it is our current tax system that has pushed our economy to be too levered. Now is the time to address the problem—before it will again be too late.

From a creditor’s perspective, the two key advantages of debt are the tax deductibility of interest payments and the ability of lenders to foreclose on non-performing borrowers (which makes it in their interest to extend credit to begin with). Although both factors contribute greatly to the incentives of the borrower to take on debt, there is one important difference between them: the tax deductibility of debt is not socially valuable.

To explain this issue, let’s abstract away from the beneficial real effects of debt and consider only the tax component. In an ideal world, taxes should not change the decisions of borrowers and lenders. They would take exactly the same projects and the same financing that they would take on in the absence of taxes. At first glance, one might argue that the tax distortions of leverage are not so bad, because the interest deductibility of the borrower is offset by the interest taxation of the lender. But this “wash argument” is wrong. It ignores the fact that capitalist markets are really good at allocating goods to their best use. In this case, it means that the economy will develop in ways that many lenders end up being in low tax brackets (such as pension funds or foreign holders) ,while many borrowers end up being in high tax brackets (such as high-income households or corporations). The end result will be not only that the aggregate tax income is negative, but that debt is taken on by borrowed primarily to reduce income taxes and not because debt has a socially productive value.


Proposed American Jobs Act Would Tax Carried Interest Tax as Ordinary Income

David Huntington is a partner in the Capital Markets and Securities Group at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. This post is based on a Paul Weiss client memorandum.

On September 12, 2011, the Obama administration submitted statutory language for the proposed American Jobs Act to Congress. The Administration’s proposal contains a number of revenue offsets, including an updated proposal to tax carried interest as ordinary income. The carried interest proposal is similar to and based on earlier versions of the proposed legislation that have passed the House of Representatives a number of times over the past several years, but have not passed the Senate. The Administration’s proposal, however, makes some significant changes as compared to earlier versions.

In General. The legislation continues to recharacterize carried interest income and gain as ordinary income, and would apply to interests in traditional hedge funds, private equity funds, venture capital funds, and real estate funds that were the focus of the original legislation. It would also continue to treat gain on the sale of such interests as ordinary income.