Using a Family Limited Partnership (FLP) or Family LLC to obtain favorable valuation discounts on gifts or bequests has been a staple of high-net-worth estate planning for the past 15 years. While IRC Section 2704, passed in 1990, was intended to limit the aggressive use of valuation discounts, over the decades since a number of Tax Court cases, along with evolving state laws, have undermined the IRS’ ability to enforce those rules.
Accordingly, after years of failed attempts to get Congress to update the rules, the Treasury department has decided to pursue its own crackdown, in the form of newly proposed 25.2704 Treasury Regulations. In fact, the proposed Regulations under Section 2704 are so expansive, that they would severely limit the use of valuation discounts for any type of family limited partnership or other family business transfer, where the family will retain control before and after the gift or bequest occurs.
The new rules would include the imposition of a new 3-year lookback to determine whether a minority valuation discount should apply (limiting deathbed transfers used to create a minority interest), the introduction of new “disregarded restrictions” that go beyond the already-ignored “applicable restrictions” in situations where the family will retain control after the transfer (and effectively create an implied put right for any recipients of a transfer, which significantly curtails most valuation discounts), and a shift away from only looking at restrictions that are “more restrictive” than available state law (given that many states have already shifted their laws to become more restrictive in recent decades).
Fortunately, the proposed Treasury Regulations must go through a 90-day public comment period through November, following by a public hearing in December, and must then be re-evaluated before final issuance (which in turn wouldn’t take effect until 30 days thereafter). And of course, the more restrictive rules are a moot point for the overwhelming majority of families – including family businesses – that still don’t have a value high enough to trigger estate taxes given an exemption of $5.45M for individuals and $10.9M for most couples.
Nonetheless, for those high-net-worth families who are over the estate tax thresholds, just a few months remain to engage in transfer planning to maximize current valuation discounts before the new rules take effect!