STEP ASIA Hong Kong Recap

A Breakdown of New and Important Information Discussed at STEP ASIA 2018

STEP ASIA at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong took place from November 19th-21st and was a sold out event despite only 12 Americans attending due to the event taking place over the American Thanksgiving Holiday. Because of the interest in the event and to increase the potential size, STEP Asia is considering moving the conference to a hotel across the harbor in Kowloon in 2020. STEP Asia 2019 will take place in Singapore.

Tuesday Presentations

STEP began by updating the organization’s standardized membership qualifications across jurisdictions. The industry continues to evolve rapidly from a regulatory perspective.

Mandatory Disclosure Rules

The conference hit the ground running beginning with a presentation from Jonathan Midgley followed by a panel discussion to talk about Mandatory Disclosure Rules (MDRs).

The digitalization of information makes personal information sharing (CRS and MDRs) possible, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for privacy.

The discussion noted that personal privacy concerns are swinging the pendulum back to “common decency,” but has overcorrected and has a long way to go to recover.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) 40-page rulebook regarding MDR’s for marketing, promoting, and service provider retroactive disclosure rules are legally troubling. There are currently no protocols for what is a reportable event, and it can cover a broad range of activities.

The creation of a database which will house names and demographic information without the knowledge of the accused is profoundly concerning. The fundamentals of substantive and procedural criminal law are violated. This should trouble all, as severe principals and freedoms are being violated.

While advising wealthy cross-border families is not a crime, failing to record a “reportable event” can be one if your local jurisdiction adopts model OECD language. The audience at STEP ASIA was encouraged to fight these laws with their local bar associations.

The goal of the OECD is likely to “name and shame” individuals, as MDRs have no legal effect. In this business, reputation is everything and individuals named in the MDRs will have no due process with these accusations in databases, and may not even be aware of their inclusion. They will have no rights of the accused typically seen in free societies.

Does this mean that individuals named could be denied access to border crossings while traveling? It’s possible.

The government’s thirst for tax enforcement information is broadly dismissing individual privacy rights and legitimate safety issues. Here’s the reality – tax prosecution is often used as a form of political suppression and many governments participating in the CRS are little more than criminal gangs hiding behind the cloak of government.

Society generally agrees that increased tax compliance does not justify the means that are taken to get there.

There are specific social values which need to be protected and are more important than the theoretical elimination of all crime: Values such as the right to no self-incrimination, use of torture, rights of the accused, etc. This should also apply in the area of tax enforcement. If one argues that tax enforcement is somehow different than the other areas of law enforcement, that can be a slippery slope.

An Update on PRC

Highlights of the presentation:

There is still no estate duty in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), despite annual rumors of such. The estate duty laws of 125,000 USD exemption level, then 55% drafted in 2004 have never been implemented.

Wills and estate plans are being used with increased frequency in Asia and the PRC, usually adopted by the first group, those with international experience, and Asians concerned about the fate of their family businesses, the second adoption group. This trend should continue with the aging population and large sums of 1st generational and regional wealth being transferred.

The People’s Republic of China and Cross-Border Planning Examples

An update on blockchain from 2017 STEP ASIA in Singapore: During this panel, attendees were reminded that bitcoin was created in 2008 as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, not a tool for speculation. However, there is still great potential in blockchain technology.

Blockchain now is similar to where the internet was in 1994 – most people did not have an email address in 1994, and we are now very early in blockchain adoption. However, the proof of concept stage was passed long ago.

Certain governments are financing the development of this field, eyeing it as a long-term alternative to using the U.S. dollar, and its usefulness is increasing.

Legal issues related to possession vs. action in regards to property laws need to be sorted, and the question needs to be asked: what is “custody” of an asset in a digital context?

Fundamental activities of banking institutions, including the payment of dividends, coupon payments, and corporate actions can all be recorded on a peer-to-peer system allowing huge savings at the expense of banks.

Tuesday Afternoon Presentations

Cyber Security with Richard Stagg and Robin Youill

Security has four elements:

  1. People
  2. Procedures
  3. Technology
  4. Physical Security

All four areas must be tested in routine circumstances, and in times of emergency/crisis.

People tend to be over-dependent on technology solutions and overlook the #1 risk: the quality of the people surrounding them. Many security firms use out-sourced labor, allowing the risk of “an inside job” to grow exponentially.

For digital communications, a VPN is essential, hacking into public wi-fi is too easy.

A Fresh UK Tax Update

This is not your mother’s sleepy HMRC any longer. The commission is looking very closely at domicile issues and challenging them like never before. The risk of becoming a “deemed domicile” and falling into the UK tax net is increasing if not correctly structured. Even evidence of prior non-dom approval is being requested. You need to have kept your favorable ruling letter from the ’80s or ’90s, because it’s you’re responsibility to produce it, not the HMRC’s.

The good news is that several trust strategies still work for tax-minimization of non-UK assets. A few ideas include “Will Trusts” which are similar to dynasty trusts, these do not pay the 10-year periodic charges and are a great way to minimize taxes. Several types of trusts can limit gains vs. incomes. Properties have special considerations, and you must be careful that if using loans, the loan itself is not deemed a UK asset. You also need to be sure to do this type of planning before you consider returning to the UK.

Policial Risk Planning

The focus of this session was on the value of using Investment Protection Treaties. These treaties between countries usually provide an arbitration right if an overseas investment is negatively and unfairly impacted by government action, local regulators, tax authorities, or the court system. This is becoming more of a factor in today’s geopolitical environment.

Over 300 of 700 filed cases since 1989 have found relief. The use of a holding company or trust in a favorable country generally changes the character of the investment to benefit from the treaties. China and Germany have the most treaties, and those in the U.S. and EU tend to be more narrow. Financing these arbitration claims is an additional option.

How OffShore and On-Shore Courts Look at Reserved Power Trusts

Much of the early discussion in this session was on the Pugachev case, which could take up a day of presentations on its own. However, reviews of claims of illusory trusts, sham trusts, and fraudulent transactions were also detailed.

It was clear to the presenters that on-shore courts view trusts with too many reserved powers, and with a high degree of skepticism. Alternatively, offshore courts are not very sympathetic to the views of on-shore courts. On-shore courts take a family court approach to trusts, a naturally skeptical and sometimes even hostile view to the trust structures.

It should be noted that the only permissible claim against a trust in Nevada is that of fraudulent conveyance. Sham and alter ego claims are forbidden by statute. This is not the case for many offshore reserved power trusts.

Wednesday Presentations

Wednesday included a very detailed presentation on the new American tax code and new planning opportunities for American taxpayers, and non-American taxpayers. Non-U.S. citizen strategies were largely not impacted by changes.

Property Ownership in the U.S.

The details of property ownership in the U.S. were shared with a few slides and scenarios. U.S. property is an attractive asset for PRC citizens. Avoiding the estate tax of 40% above 60,000 USD is not difficult if the appropriate structuring options are put in place.

For U.S. persons, the use of an intentionally defective grantor trust (IDGT) is highly recommended to take advantage of the relatively high estate and gift tax exemptions. If leveraged properly, assets which are still exposed to the estate tax regime can be used and taxes paid from these assets. Many regard this structure strategy as superior to the GRAT which lacks the ability to use the GST exemption.

If you would like to discuss or review any of these presentations or strategies with Alliance Trust, contact us to set up an appointment.

Interview of Supreme Highness Prince Michael of Liechtenstein

The thoughtful and reflective interview of Supreme Highness Prince Michael of Liechtenstein reflected on 900 years and 36 generations of rule, and the more modern family ownership of Liechtenstein Global Trust (LGT Bank) the largest family-owned financial institution in Europe.

He discussed religious wars, expropriations, as recent as 1939, and managing family dynamics from generation to generation in a manner that families of all sizes of wealth could learn from.

The Wrap Up

The bon voyage BBQ held at the Hyatt pool was well-attended, and even a little rain did not dampen the spirits of the STEP Asia attendees.

If you’re interested in next year’s conference, mark your calendars for November 3rd-5th in Singapore.

For more information about establishing your trust in the U.S. and the state of Nevada, we’re here to answer your questions.

U.S. Supreme Court Looking at Two Cases Relating to State Taxation of Trusts

Minnesota and North Carolina appeal to the Supreme Court in Trust Taxation Cases

The United States Supreme Court will review two petitions for a writ of certiorari from the states of North Carolina and Minnesota. Both states lost cases in their respective State Supreme Courts where the state laws were deemed in violation of the United States Constitution under Due Process Clause. Both states have appealed to the U.S. Supreme court for review.

A Breakdown of the Original Cases

Case 1: North Carolina

The Case: North Carolina Department of Revenue, Petitioner v. The Kimberly Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust Current North Carolina Practice: North Carolina taxes trusts based on beneficiary residency. The Original Conclusion: “The North Carolina Supreme Court concluded that a trust and its beneficiaries are legally separate – in other words, that beneficiaries are outsiders to a trust. On that basis, that majority (of the NC Supreme Court) expressly disregarded the trust beneficiaries’ in-state residency and other contacts with North Carolina. That analysis led the majority to conclude that the trust at issue lacked a constitutionally sufficient connection with the state.”

Click here to view the case filings.

Case 2: Minnesota

The Case: Cynthia Bauerly, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Petitioner v. William Fielding, Trustee of the Reid and Ann MacDonald Irrevocable GST Trust for Maria V. Macdonald, et al. Current Minnesota Practice: Minnesota taxes trusts based on the residency of the grantor when the trust becomes irrevocable. The Original Conclusion: “The grantor’s connections to Minnesota are not relevant to the relationship between the trust’s income that Minnesota seeks to tax and the protection and benefits Minnesota provided to the trusts’ activities that generated that income. The relevant connections are Minnesota’s connection to the trustee, not the connection to the grantor who established the trust years earlier. A trust is its own legal entity, with a legal existence that is separate from the grantor or the beneficiary. Nor did the court find the grantor’s decision to use a Minnesota law firm to draft the trust documents to be relevant. Thus, the grantor Reid MacDonald is not the taxpayer, the trusts are.”

Click here to view the case filings.

What Are the States Asking For?

Both states believe they have the right to tax the trusts under due process clause, given legal abstractions of trusts. The Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that the trust is separate from the Grantor, but the connections between Grantor and the state of Minnesota were not sufficient to tax the trust. Similarly, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that a beneficiary and a trust are legally separate and the connection between the beneficiary and the state of North Carolina are not enough to tax the trust.

The question presented by the State of Minnesota: Does the Due Process Clause prohibit states from imposing income taxes on statutory “resident trusts” which have significant additional contacts with the state, but are administered by an out-of-state trustee? The question presented by the State of North Carolina: Does the Due Process Clause prohibit states from taxing trusts based on trust beneficiaries’ in-state residency?

A Constitutional Reminder: The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that [n]o state shall…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. Amend. XIV § 1.)

What Lower Courts Had to Say in Regard to Their Decisions

From Minnesota Writ: “This Court has not spoken on the issue in decades, and its precedents point in opposite directions. As a consequence, state appellate courts are deeply divided on the correct answer. Some state appellate courts have held that a state may impose an income tax on a trust even when the trustee resides out-of-state, so long as the grantor resided in-state when the trust became irrevocable. Other courts have required, on top of grantor residence, that the trust have some additional contacts with the state during the tax year. One other state high court has held that a state may tax a trust as a resident if a beneficiary of the trust resided in the state during the tax year.”

From North Carolina Writ:

“This case asks whether the Due Process Clause prohibits states from taxing trusts based on trust beneficiaries’ in-state residency—a question on which nine state courts have split. Because of the Tax Injunction Act, this federal constitutional question is usually litigated in state courts. State courts are divided in their answers to this question, however, because they lack modern guidance from this Court.”

“With that decision, North Carolina joined the ranks of eight other states that have reached conflicting decisions on the question presented here. Five states have concluded that the Due Process Clause forbids states from taxing trusts based on trust beneficiaries’ in-state residency. Four states have concluded the opposite.”

The United States Supreme Court has not ruled on trust taxation since 1947 (Greenough v. Newport 331 U.S. 486 (1947)) and states say that since state courts are split regarding their rulings of trust taxation that a review by the Supreme Court is needed.

Where Concluding States Land

Four state courts have concluded that the Due Process Clause allows states to tax trusts based on trust beneficiaries’ in-state residency:

  • California in McCulloch v. Franchise Tax Board, 390 P.2d 412 (Cal. 1964)
  • Missouri in Westfall v. Director of Revenue, 812 S.W.2d 513 (Mo. 1991)
  • Connecticut in Chase Manhattan Bank v. Gavin, 733 A.2d 782, 802 (Conn. 1999)
  • Illinois in Linn v. Department of Revenue, 2 N.E. 3d 1203, 1209 (Ill. App. Ct. 2013) – but note that Linn ultimately held that the state could not tax a trust merely because the trust’s settlor had been an Illinois resident.

 

Five states ruled against taxation of trusts:

  • New York in Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co. v. Murphy, 203 N.E.2d 490, 491 (N.Y. 1964)
  • New Jersey in Potter v. Taxation Division Director, 5 N.J. Tax 399, 405 (N.J. Tax Ct. 1983)
  • Michigan in Blue v. Department of Treasury, 462 N.W.2d 762, 764 (Mich. Ct. App. 1990)
  • North Carolina in this current case: North Carolina Department of Revenue, Petitioner v. The Kimberly Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust
  • Minnesota in this current case: Cynthia Bauerly, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Petitioner v. William Fielding, Trustee of the Reid and Ann MacDonald Irrevocable GST Trust for Maria V. Macdonald, et al. Note that Minnesota rejected both the residency of Grantor and Beneficiary.)

What is the Impact of the Recent Wayfair Case?

In South Dakota v. Wayfair the United States Supreme Court ruled that states may impose sales tax even if the seller does not have a physical presence in the state.

This case could have an impact on future Supreme Court decisions regarding taxation. Although South Dakota’s decision is not an exact template for other states, it could influence how they craft their laws.

Timing

In the North Carolina case, the writ was filed on October 9th, 2018. The taxpayer filed their brief in opposition on November 30th.

The Minnesota case writ was filed on November 15th and docketed on November 21st. The taxpayers have until December 21st to file their response.

Will the Supreme Court Take Both Cases, or One?

Some Potential Outcomes: Ruling for the states – A ruling for the states would have a significant negative impact on out-of-state trust planning and could potentially send grantors to offshore jurisdictions.

Ruling for taxpayers – This will have a significant impact on the 22 states that still impose taxes on trusts and could potentially be a clear law-of-the-land in which all states would need to amend their tax code to comply.

Both cases declined – This is an implicit win for the taxpayers, and would lead to further haggling at the state level, both in courts as well as legislation.

Because Minnesota’s Fielding case includes both grantor and beneficiary issues, the Supreme Court hearing this case would set more comprehensive precedents regarding the taxation of trusts. With the North Carolina Kaestner case, the only issue at hand is the beneficiary’s residence.

There are still a lot of questions and unknowns about the impact of the court’s decisions and a lot of speculation. Either way, there are sure to be some interesting changes ahead.

Who said trust laws had to be boring?

Understanding Nevada Asset Protection Trusts

Why Nevada’s Asset Protection Trust Laws Keep Your Wealth Safer Than Any Other State

The state of Nevada has dominated the asset protection space and positioned itself as the most beneficial situs to establish an asset protection trust.

Precedent-setting cases and favorable trust laws have launched Nevada to the forefront of the estate planning industry and allowing trustees and estate planners flexibility, privacy, and the power to protect wealth and assets more securely than any other state.

The Benefits of Nevada Law

Nevada’s trust advantages continue to grow and have edged out other states with similar trust provisions. Here are some of the ways that Nevada takes asset protection measures further.

Nevada’s advantages include:

Nevada carries no state or corporate income tax.

Federal taxes take a significant chunk out of trusts and returns made on assets so establishing a trust in a state with no income tax can help preserve a large portion of wealth.

Nevada carries no state or corporate income tax, protecting your wealth from additional taxes and allowing it more unhindered growth.

Nevada carries a 24-month statute of limitations or “seasoning period.”

Every state carries a different statute of limitations ranging from 1.5 years to 5 years. While Nevada carries a two-year statute, the language in the Nevada code reinforces that trusts are actually still protected during the two-year seasoning period.

Zero exception creditors, including divorcing spouses.

In the recent case of Klabacka vs. Nelson, Nevada sets a new precedent that its asset protection laws are the most robust in the nation.

In a similar case in Delaware, the courts sided with the divorcing spouse, weakening the state’s asset protection laws.

The grantor is able to name an independent financial advisor to manage trust funds.

Anyone can take advantage of Nevada’s favorable trust laws as grantors can name a Nevada resident or a Nevada trust company as trustee or co-trustee, this includes international families and businesses as well as domestic families.

Nevada Asset Protection Trusts are irrevocable but flexible.

In Nevada, the trust settlor is allowed to make decisions regarding powers related to managing the Nevada Domestic Asset Protection Trust (NDAPT). Though the term irrevocable sounds final, in Nevada, there is actually a great deal of flexibility in these trusts.

What is a Nevada Asset Protection Trust?

Simply put, an asset protection trust limits creditor access to the value of the beneficiary’s interest in the trust. The asset protection trust protects the value of the assets and legally protects them from lawsuits and other claims.

Nevada Asset Protection Trusts have proven their strength, holding up in court most recently in the case of Klabacka v Nelson, 133 Nev. Adv. Op. (May25, 2017): Nevada DAPT Protects Against Spousal/Child Support Claims. In this case, a divorcing spouse sought access to her ex-husbands self-settled spendthrift trust and the courts sided with the trust. All alimony, child support, and other claims on the trust had to be taken from liquid assets outside of the trust.

The decision in the Klabacka case reaffirmed Nevada’s asset protection strength as other states are scrambling to keep up. While other states may defer to Nevada’s ruling in the Klabacka case, that is far from a guarantee.

Nevada Residency is not required.

If your trust is established in Nevada you may live anywhere in the world and take advantage of Nevada’s many trust benefits. Nevada also fully protects personal privacy.

Alliance Trust Company of Nevada helps people take full advantage of Nevada’s trust laws and may serve as independent trustee if the grantor is out of state. We’re available to answer any questions regarding Nevada Asset Protection.

Using NING Trusts to Significantly Reduce State Income Tax Liabilities

Why Wealthy Families are Choosing to Shift Their Wealth to the Tax Favored State of Nevada

The state of Nevada is considered a tax-favored environment, allowing maximum tax protection over trusts and estates. That’s just one of the reasons why more and more people are choosing Nevada as to establish their trusts.

The “NING” trust or Nevada Incomplete-gift Non-Grantor trust reduces state income tax liabilities and simultaneously provides asset protection benefits.

For people with substantial income, assets or large capital gains who could generate significant Federal and state income tax shifting a trust from its current state to a state with more favorable tax laws, such as Nevada, could create significant income tax savings.

While moving to Nevada would allow someone to take advantage of these benefits, relocating family is often not an option. However, by establishing a NING and transferring assets from the existing trust into the NING, the trust will only face Federal capital gains taxes.

Non-Grantor vs. Grantor Trusts

Trusts are set up as either grantor or non-grantor, and it’s important to understand the difference.

Grantor trusts expose the creator of the trust to the taxes incurred by the trust. Non-grantor trusts are set up as their own entities incurring all taxes at the trust level instead of passing them on to the owner of the trust.

Things get murky because every state has its own taxation rules and definitions about which trusts should be considered a resident.

For example, to take advantage of a NING or Nevada’s favorable tax laws in general, a non-grantor trust with a Nevada trustee should be established. By establishing a non-grantor trust in Nevada and appointing a Nevada trustee you can be sure that you’ll minimize or completely eliminate taxes from your state of residence.

A New Aggressive Strategy for Substantial Gains

If a substantial gain is on the horizon, wealthy families can take advantage of ING trusts to adopt a more aggressive tax strategy. ING’s help reduce state income tax at the trust level by establishing it one or more years before a large gain becomes available.

One word of caution, there are specific steps you should follow to ensure that your strategy is not viewed as tax evasion, it’s always best to employ professional guidance to understand how to establish your ING ethically.

Structuring a NING for Maximum Benefit

Since the purpose of establishing a NING trust is to avoid additional taxing, it’s important to properly structure the trust to avoid gift tax. Proper structuring also ensures that the trust really is taxed in Nevada instead of the settlor’s home state.

Remember that NING stands for Nevada Incomplete-Gift Non-Grantor Trust, so when assets are transferred to the trust, it must be in the form of an “incomplete gift.”

Transferring assets as an “incomplete gift” allows the owner of the trust to include your investments in your estate without needing to file a Form 709 gift tax return.

NING Trusts vs. DING Trusts

The DING Trust did come before the NING trust, so one may wonder which is the better situs for a trust, Nevada or Delaware?

While both states allow settlors to appoint a grantor for their trust and take advantage of favorable tax laws, several Delaware rulings have allowed divorcing spouses and creditors to gain access to an asset protection trust. Nevada has never allowed such access in rulings and therefore has more iron clad protection than any other state.

How the Other States Feel About ING Trusts

It’s no surprise that other states aren’t happy about non-grantor trusts and their tax-avoidance benefits, some have even gone as far as banning such trusts.

While both Delaware and Nevada have successfully deflected attempts by other states to tax grantors, that likely won’t stop states from attempting to gain access whenever they can.

However, several statutes in the state of Nevada prove that the state values and protects trusts and estates which are established there and is the safest bet when choosing where to create an ING trust.

To learn more about establishing a NING, please contact Alliance Trust Company.

4 Reasons to Consider Establishing a Nevada Dynasty Trust

Unprecedented Protection for Generations

Choosing the right trust strategy to protect your assets is an important and often complex decision. Dynasty trusts are a great option when you need to hold assets for generations, and they minimize or even eliminate many taxes associated with trusts including distribution, estate, inheritance, transfer and more.

Once you’ve decided that a Dynasty Trust is right for you, the next most important decision is where you should establish your trust. Both Nevada and Delaware are considered some of the best places to establish a trust to take full advantage of friendly trust laws, because of precedents set in both Nevada and Delaware, Nevada is often considered the better choice.

If you’re feeling unsure about establishing a Nevada Dynasty Trust, here are five reasons why it’s the best choice to care for your family for generations to come.

Nevada Dynasty Trusts: 4 Things that Set Them Apart

1. Unique Precedents Set in Nevada

Currently, Nevada has the most current and robust precedents set to protect assets while still protecting those affected by life events such as divorce, especially in the case of a Nevada Dynasty Trust with the potential to last up to 365 years.

Currently, Nevada has the most current and robust precedents set to protect assets while still protecting those affected by life events such as divorce, especially in the case of a Nevada Dynasty Trust with the potential to last up to 365 years.

2. Minimize Taxes

With a Nevada Dynasty Trust, your assets will only be taxed at the estate level once with the federal gift/estate tax or lifetime exemption upon transfer into the trust.  The Nevada Dynasty Trust allows you to allocate a generation-skipping-transfer tax exemption which is a powerful way to limit estate tax liabilities, sometimes even eliminating them altogether.

Due to the nature of the Nevada Dynasty Trust, these tax benefits are provided for an extended period of time.

3. Short “Seasoning Period”

Nevada’s seasoning period is one of the shortest in the United States. The statute of limitations during this vesting period is just two years on asset transfers to self-settled spendthrift trusts (domestic asset protection trusts).

During the seasoning period, your assets are not under the full protection of the dynasty trust. For this reason, a short seasoning period is essential to ensure the security of your assets as quickly as possible.

However, the burden of proof that creditors would have to provide to gain access to your trust during the seasoning period is quite challenging in the state of Nevada – another benefit to those looking to establish a trust in the state.

4. Flexible Decanting Statute

Trust decanting is a term taken from wine decanting in which wine is transferred from one container to another, leaving the undesirable sediment behind. With trust decanting, the terms of the trust are changeable after it has been established.

Trust decanting allows trustees to keep aspects of the trust that are still beneficial while leaving old trust provisions which are no longer wanted, needed, or relevant behind.

Nevada allows for trust decanting without the need for court approval, which can be expensive, or notice to the beneficiaries.

Advantageous Trust Laws at Your Fingertips

An important consideration as you prepare to set up your Nevada Dynasty Trust is the use of an independent corporate trustee. Because Dynasty trusts can last hundreds of years, it’s advisable to put an independent corporate trustee in place to avoid needing to transfer trustees due to death or unforeseen circumstances.

Alliance Trust Company of Nevada is a trusted and qualified institution and is available to serve as trustee, directed trustee, or many other capacities if you choose to establish your trust in the state of Nevada.

 

Fielding Luncheon Panel Discussion Summary

Experts in MN taxation, MN trust and estate law, and trust migration and decanting discuss possible outcomes from the fielding decision

On August 27, 2018, Alliance Trust Company of Nevada hosted a panel discussion at Seven Steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis. Attendees included Minnesota tax and trust law professionals from prominent firms throughout the state of Minnesota.

The Panel

Jouko Sipila, the Minnesota representative for Alliance Trust Company of Nevada, put together an outstanding panel to discuss possible impacts from the Fielding decision including one of the Faegre Baker Daniels attorneys that represented Fielding, an expert in MN taxation that assisted in drafting the law at issue, and an expert in trust migration and trust decanting.

Caitlin Abram, Partner at Faegre Baker Daniels

Caitlin was an integral part of the Fielding legal team. Caitlin carries vast experience in complex trust and estate transactional and litigation matters.

Caitlin started the conversation by explaining the background on the Fielding Case.

Click here to learn more about the Minnesota Supreme Court case, Fielding v. Commissioner.

Case insights from Caitlin

  • The Fielding decision will likely impact the wealth management industry in Minnesota.
  • Loss of fee income could lead to loss of tax revenue in the state, so a solution is in Minnesota’s best interest.
  • If you’re considering following in Fielding’s footsteps here are some things you need to consider:
    • Is there enough money at stake to make it worth filing claims for refund?
    • What are the connections to Minnesota among the trust’s stakeholders?
    • How do your facts differ from the Fielding case?
  • In the Fielding case, the taxpayer did not receive enough benefit from the state to justify taxation.

Bill Lunka, Director at SALT Partners

Bill is an esteemed Minnesota taxation expert bringing four decades of state and local tax experience (including 29 years with the MN Dep. of Revenue) to the discussion.

Bill discussed his views on how the Minnesota Revenue and Legislature might react to the Fielding decision. He noted that the uncertain political landscape in the state makes it challenging to predict how the law might be changed.

Case insights from Bill

  • Trusts holding real property in Minnesota will likely be subject to taxation because they receive protection benefits form the state.
  • In light of the Fielding decision, the Minnesota government has four options:
    • Do nothing.
    • Go back to the pre-1995 law.
    • See what other states are doing with the definition of a resident trust to resolve the defects identified by the Minnesota Supreme Court in the definition of a “resident trust.” Those problems include:

      • The Court found that using the residence of the grantor as the basis for the determination of the residency of the trust, a separate legal entity, was invalid.
      • Determining the residency of a trust in later tax years based on an event in a prior tax year (i.e., when the trust became irrevocable) was not valid under the Due Process Clause.
      • Making sure the state taxes appropriately according to income earned and benefits enjoyed.
    • Relitigating similar cases to Fielding would be an ineffective strategy for the Department of Revenue.

The most likely option for Minnesota is to see what other states are doing. A possible definition of a resident trust that Minnesota could follow is California’s definition of a resident trust.

Click here for more details about the California definition.

  • Existing Minnesota trusts could benefit from filing their taxes under protest as was done in the Fielding case.
  • Ultimately, practitioners need to have their clients plan and do so conservatively.

Greg Crawford, President of Alliance Trust Company of Nevada

Greg Crawford is an expert in both Nevada and California trust laws, trust migration, as well as trust decanting. Nevada is one of the fastest growing trust jurisdictions because of industry-leading tax benefits and asset protection laws. Learn more about Nevada’s favorable tax laws here.

Case insights from Greg

  • Greg explained the California Model and the implications a similar model could have on the taxation of Minnesota trusts.
  • The state of Nevada has worked hard to make its trust laws flexible to handle different situations including dynasty trusts, directed trusts, and more.
  • Trust structures need time, and there needs to be additional motives, such as a more comprehensive review of the estate plan or asset protection.
    • Decisions motivated by taxation will catch the eye of the tax authorities.

Final Thoughts

Cases such as Fielding v. Commissioner often make grantors and trustees reevaluate their trust protections. Decanting your trust may be the best option to ensure its operating in the most beneficial way possible.

Greg Crawford, President of Alliance Trust Company, is a trust migration and decanting expert located in Nevada. With some of the most favorable tax and protection laws in the world, Nevada is a highly advantageous situs to administer your trust.

Greg and his team are ready to help you ensure your assets are protected in every possible way.

Unpacking Fielding’s Win in Fielding v. Commissioner of Revenue

Arguments from both sides and the basis for why taxing the trusts in MN was deemed unconstitutional

In Fielding v. Commissioner of Revenue, the court concluded that the contacts on which the Commissioner relied are either irrelevant or too attenuated to establish that Minnesota’s tax on the trusts’ income from all sources complies with due process requirements.

Alliance Trust Company of Nevada is hosting a panel discussion on the Fielding case and its impacts on August 27, 2018, in Minneapolis, MN. Click here to learn more.

The 3 Primary Reasons the Minnesota Supreme Court Sided With Fielding

Reason 1

The grantor’s connections to Minnesota are not relevant to the relationship between the trusts’ income that Minnesota seeks to tax and the protection and benefits Minnesota provided to the trusts’ activities that generated that income.

The relevant connections are Minnesota’s connection to the trustee, not the connection to the grantor who established the trust years earlier. A trust is its own legal entity, with a legal existence that is separate from the grantor or the beneficiary.

Nor did the court find the grantor’s decision to use a Minnesota law firm to draft the trust documents to be relevant.

Thus, the grantor Reid MacDonald is not the taxpayer, the trusts are.

Reason 2

The trusts did not own any physical property in Minnesota that may serve as a basis for taxation as residents. The trusts held interests in intangible property, FFI stock.

Although FFI was incorporated in Minnesota and held physical property within the state, the intangible property that generated the trusts’ income was stock in FFI and funds held in investment accounts.

These intangible assets were held outside of Minnesota, and thus, do not serve as a relevant or legally significant connection with the state of Minnesota.

Reason 3

The court did not find the contacts with Minnesota that pre-date 2014 by the grantor, the trusts, or the beneficiaries to be relevant.

The taxpayer—holder of the legal title to the stock in FFI and the other income-producing intangible assets—is the trustee, who is not a Minnesota resident. Intangible assets are appropriately taxed as being resident in the jurisdiction where the owner of legal title—the trustee—is a resident.

The court was left to consider the extremely tenuous contacts between the trusts (or their trustees) and Minnesota during the tax year 2014. The Trustees had almost no contact with Minnesota during the applicable tax year. All trust administration activities by the Trustees occurred in states other than Minnesota.

The Argument: The Commissioner vs. Fielding

The Commissioner of Minnesota

The Commissioner contended taxing the trusts’ worldwide income based on several contacts between Minnesota and the trusts was, in fact, constitutional.

The Facts

  • Specifically, the grantor, Reid MacDonald, was a Minnesota resident when the trusts were created in 2009 and MacDonald was domiciled in Minnesota when the trusts became irrevocable in 2011, and still domiciled in Minnesota in 2014.
  • The trusts were created in Minnesota, with the assistance of a Minnesota law firm, and until 2014, the Minnesota law firm retained the trust documents.
  • The trusts held stock in FFI, a Minnesota “S corporation.”
  • The trust documents indicate that questions of law arising under the trust documents are determined by Minnesota law.
  • One beneficiary, Vandever MacDonald, has been a Minnesota resident at least through the tax year at issue.

Fielding

When Fielding filed tax returns in 2014, they were filed under protest landing in the Minnesota Tax Court. Fielding wins in the tax court. Minnesota appealed to the supreme court.

The Facts

  • No trustee has been a Minnesota resident.
  • The trusts have not been administered in Minnesota.
  • The records of the trusts’ assets and income have been maintained outside of Minnesota.
  • Some of the Trusts’ income is derived from investments with no direct connection to Minnesota.
  • Three of the four trust beneficiaries reside outside of Minnesota.

Alliance Trust Company of Nevada is hosting a panel discussion on the Fielding case and its impacts on August 27, 2018, in Minneapolis, MN. Click here to learn more.

The basis for the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in favor of Fielding

  • A state can only tax entities in a tax year when they receive a benefit from a state and must have reasonable connections to the taxing state.
  • A single factor from the Minnesota Stat. § 290.01, subd. 7b(a)(2) (2016)–the grantor’s domicile at the time the four trusts became irrevocable–was deemed unconstitutional since it relied on that factor alone in defining the trusts as Minnesota Resident Trusts.
  • The court affirmed the decision of the Minnesota Tax Court because in the Fielding case the trust(s) lacked sufficient relevant contacts with Minnesota during the applicable tax year for the trusts to be permissibly taxed as Minnesota residents.
  • The court analogized the case to a hypothetical statute authorizing that any person born in Minnesota to resident parents is deemed a resident and taxable as such, no matter where they reside or earn their income. The court believed this would be undoubtedly outside of the State’s power to impose taxes.

The State lacked sufficient contacts with the trusts to support taxation of the trusts’ entire income as residents consistent with due process.

Attributing all income, regardless of source, to Minnesota for tax purposes would not bear a rational relationship with the limited benefits received by the Trusts from Minnesota during the tax year at issue.

Courts have said that a tax will satisfy due process if (1) there is a “minimum connection” between the state and the person, property, or transaction subject to the tax, and (2) the income subject to the tax is rationally related to the benefits conferred on the taxpayer by the State.

The court conclude that in the context of a due process challenge to the State’s taxation of a taxpayer as a resident, the court will examine all relevant contacts between the taxpayer and the State, including the relationship between the income attributed to the state and the benefits the taxpayer received from its connections with the state. Taxation needs to be fairly apportioned to activities within the state.

The court considered whether the trusts’ contacts with Minnesota were sufficient, under the Due Process Clause, to permit them to be taxed as Minnesota residents.

A state’s tax satisfies due process if there is:

  1. Some “minimum connection” between the state and the entity subject to the tax
  2. A “rational relationship” between the income the state seeks to tax and the protections and benefits conferred by the state. “there must be a connection to the activity itself, rather than a connection only to the actor the state seeks to tax”

MN Supreme Court Sets New Precedent for Defining Resident Trusts

Taxing trusts solely based on grantor residence is now unconstitutional in Minnesota

On July 18, 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Respondents v. Commissioner of Revenue that taxing trusts in perpetuity only based on the test that the grantor was a Minnesota resident while the trust became irrevocable is unconstitutional. This decision supports the ruling decided by the Minnesota Tax Court almost exactly one year ago. Moreover, this decision follows similar logic in cases heard in Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois.

If you are not familiar with Fielding v. Commissioner of Revenue and Respondents v. Commissioner of Revenue, learn more by clicking here.

Alliance Trust Company of Nevada is hosting a panel discussion on the Fielding case and its impacts on August 27, 2018, in Minneapolis, MN. Click here to learn more.

Current Definition of a Resident Trust In Minnesota

Until now, Minnesota had to look back over two decades when designating a trust as a Minnesota resident.

Two common scenarios designate a trust as a Minnesota resident.

  1. A non-grantor trust typically created by a will of a decedent domiciled in Minnesota at the time of death.
  2. An irrevocable trust in which the grantor was a Minnesota resident when the trust became irrevocable.

The Commissioner of Revenue utilized the second scenario when taxing the Fielding gains in 2014. The grantor, Reid MacDonald lived in Minnesota when the four trusts became irrevocable in 2011 as planned when the trusts were established in 2009.

Fielding’s Winning Arguments

In 2014, one of the four trustees, Fielding, sold stocks from the trust realizing substantial gains. Within the current law, the Minnesota Department of Revenue collected taxes on the gains under protest.

Fielding takes his protest to the Minnesota Tax Court. Fielding’s Reasoning For Protest

  • Three of four beneficiaries lived outside of Minnesota
  • The trust’s investment accounts were administered in California
  • None of the trustees lived in Minnesota
  • The trust records were not located in Minnesota

However, on the sole basis that the grantor lived in Minnesota when the trusts became irrevocable, Minnesota collected taxes on the gains of the trusts.

Fielding won his case in the Minnesota Tax Court.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue appealed, and the case landed in the Minnesota Supreme Court, but Fielding wins again.

How will the Minnesota Department of Revenue and the Minnesota Legislature react to losing Respondents v. Commissioner of Revenue?

While the timings of any rulings and enactment of statutes is uncertain, we may speculate on what’s to come.

We reached out to our Minnesota network for insight.

Bill Lunka, with SALT Partners, a state and local tax consulting firm in Minnesota. Mr. Lunka told us that, “It is likely that the Department would respond to the Fielding decision by proposing legislation to overcome the constitutional defects in the current law. He said that “The Minnesota Legislature could change the definition of resident trust that would look to the location of the trustees and/or beneficiaries as a basis for determining whether a trust’s income is taxable in Minnesota during any given year.”

Mr. Lunka also noted that if Minnesota goes down the path of determining a trust’s residency based on the location of the trustees he thinks many trustees will, if possible, make the decision to move the trustees outside Minnesota.

At Alliance Trust Company of Nevada, we will closely monitor how the Fielding case impacts Minnesota resident trusts as new legislation materializes. It will be advantageous for many to evaluate their “Minnesota trusts” ensuring they are in a situs allowing the greatest tax and protection benefits.

Alliance Trust Company of Nevada is hosting a panel discussion on the Fielding case and its impacts on August 27, 2018, in Minneapolis, MN. Click here to learn more.

MINNESOTA SUPREME COURT TO DEFINE “RESIDENT TRUSTS”

Respondents v. Commissioner of Revenue to set precedent for trusts administered in Minnesota

Case Background

Last year (2017), the Minnesota Tax Court ruled that treating irrevocable trusts as residents in Minnesota for income taxes is unconstitutional in Fielding v. Commissioner of Revenue. The state of Minnesota appealed the ruling bringing the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court where a new ruling is expected to be decided this month (June 2018).

In 2009, Reid MacDonald established four irrevocable trusts, one for each of his children, while residing in Minnesota. The trusts were deemed to become irrevocable in 2011, at which time the grantor resided in Minnesota.

No trustees were Minnesota residents. All but one beneficiary resided outside the state of Minnesota. The trusts only held investment accounts administered in the state of California.

However, the trusts owned stocks of a Minnesota company (Faribault Foods) and sold them in 2014 to a third party placing significant proceeds in an investment account.

In 2014, the four trusts filed a Minnesota Fiduciary Income Tax Return as resident trusts. Each trust paid their tax liabilities under protest with the argument that Minnesota’s definition of resident trust was unconstitutional and therefore, each trust filed refund claims.

The U.S. Constitution states that taxes imposed by a state must have a justified and contemporaneous relationship with the benefits and protections offered by the state.

Because the trusts were administered in California, they were receiving no benefits or protections from Minnesota. Thus, the Minnesota Tax Court concluded that denying the trusts’ refunds was an error by the Commissioner. Courts in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois reached similar conclusions regarding cases focused on the constitutionality of taxes.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue appealed the Fielding decision, and the case is now being decided in the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Alliance Trust Company of Nevada is hosting a panel discussion on the Fielding case and its impacts on August 27, 2018, in Minneapolis, MN. Click here to learn more.

Constitutional Basis of Appeal

Two primary issues are being presented to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

  1. Are the four irrevocable trusts connected to Minnesota sufficiently enough to justify the taxation of the trusts as residents of Minnesota for the 2014 tax year while adhering to the Constitution’s Due Process Clause?
  2. Should the Constitution’s Commerce Clause disallow Minnesota from taxing the trusts as Minnesota residents for 2014?

If the Court decides in favor of Fielding, the impacts are far-reaching.

Location, Location, Location

Should the court decide in favor of Fielding, the precedent set could impact living trusts that were originally established in Minnesota and then amended as irrevocable while residing outside of Minnesota. If a trust paid income tax to Minnesota after being administered in another state while the grantor resided outside of Minnesota, the trust would be entitled to a refund.

At Alliance Trust Company of Nevada, we believe there are opportunities for decanting Minnesota trusts to domiciles with no income tax, such as Nevada, while also gaining asset protection advantages.

We are closely monitoring the Fielding case and will provide an update when a decision is reached.

Learn how the recent Nevada Supreme Court case, Klabacka v. Nelson, set a precedent for asset protection in Nevada.

2017 Tax Reform Act Creates Estate Planning Opportunities

The window for historical estate planning exclusions is open. For now…

On December 22nd, President Donald Trump signed the 2017 Tax Reform Act into law doubling the estate and gift exclusion, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) exemption amounts. This is the most significant tax reform since 1986.

How the 2017 Tax Reform Act Affects Your Estate Planning Strategies

The 2017 Tax Reform Act doubles the lifetime gift and estate exclusion (The 2018 Unified Exemption) and GST tax exemption from $5 million to $10 million with the intention of adjusting for inflation. However, in 2026, the lifetime gift and estate exclusion and GST tax exemption drop back to their base amount of $5 million.

If you accept the fact that taxes are political, and that politics are cyclical, then it follows that the estate tax is indeed likely to be reduced at some point in the future. Indeed, as recently as 1997 under the Clinton Administration the estate tax was level was just $600,000. For those who follow football more than politics, that was when Tom Brady was a QB at Michigan.

While the 2018 Unified Exemption is slated to sunset in 2026, the exemption is vulnerable to change.

The time to take advantage of the new 2017 Tax Reform Act exemptions is now.

Lifetime Gift and Estate Exclusion and GST Tax Exemption Amounts: Then and Now

Before the 2017 Tax Reform Act

The inflationary adjustments in the new tax law increase the base $5 million to $5.49 million for the tax year 2017. Before the Act, the 2018 exclusion amount was set at $5.6 million for inflationary adjustments. The estate, gift, and GST tax rates are 40%.

After the 2017 Tax Reform Act

Doubling the base exclusion amount to $10 million while adding the adjustment for inflation increases the lifetime gift and estate exclusion and GST exemption to a staggering $11.2 million for the tax year 2018. The amount doubles for married couples to $22.4 million. The estate, gift, and GST tax rates remain at 40%.

So What

With a historical combination of events, the 2017 Tax Reform Act creates a window of opportunity  in the estate planning arena:

  • Tax exemptions double the $5.6 million in 2017 to $10.98 million in 2018 per person (not per household)
  • New exemptions are scheduled to sunset back to $5 million in 2026
  • Ability to combine the new exemption increases with existing discounting methods available under IRS 2704

To put into perspective how historically advantageous the new estate tax laws are, in 2001 (less than 20 years ago) the estate tax exclusion amount was $675,000 with a maximum tax rate of 55%. Bumping the estate tax exclusion amount to over $11 million holding a maximum federal estate tax rate of 40% makes reviewing your existing estate planning strategies to leverage the new laws prudent and necessary.

Especially Advantageous In Nevada

The 2018 Tax Reform Act carries massive impacts on estate planning and highlights the advantages of Nevada as a situs for your trust. With a substantial demographic wave now heading into retirement, estate planning is on the minds of many Americans. And, they have just been presented with a unique, temporary opportunity to leverage Nevada Trust Laws for even more significant family benefits.

Gifts into a Nevada Dynasty Trust for your family can grow outside of your estate now and for generations to come. An added advantage is Nevada’s ironclad asset protection laws. Nevada Asset Protection protects your assets from your beneficiaries’ creditors when properly structured.

Learn more about applying the 2017 Tax Reform Act to your estate planning strategies.

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