Tax Shelter

bain capital

Tax Shelter by David G Klein

In North America, a tax shelter is generally defined as any method that recovers more than $1 in tax for every $1 spent, within 4 years. Some tax shelters are questionable or even illegal such as offshore companies that exploit differing tax rates and legislation. Others are part of financing arrangements; by paying unreasonably high interest rates to a related party, one may severely reduce the income of an investment (or even create a loss), but create a massive capital gain when one withdraws the investment. The tax benefit derives from the fact that capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than the normal investment income such as interest or dividend.

The offense of these questionable tax shelters are usually that transactions were not reported at fair market value or the interest rate was too high or too low. In general, if the purpose of a transaction is to lower tax liabilities but otherwise have no economic value, and especially when arranged between related parties, such transactions are often viewed as unethical.

Other tax shelters can be legal and legitimate such as flow-through shares/limited partnerships; certain companies, such as mining or oil drilling often take several years before they can generate positive income, while many of them will go under. This normally deters common investors who demand quick, or at least safe, returns. To encourage the investment, the US government allows the exploration costs of the company to be distributed to shareholders as tax deductions (not to be confused with tax credits).

The most common tax shelter is a retirement plan. In order to reduce burden of the government-funded pension systems, governments may allow individuals to invest in their own pension. In the US these sanctioned programs include Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)s. These tax shelters are usually created by the government to promote a certain desirable behavior, usually a long term investment, to help the economy; in turn, this generates even more tax revenue. Alternatively, the shelters may be a means to promote social behaviors.

 

 

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