Vol. LVII No. 3

Three Whacks at Wealth Transfer Tax Reform: Retained-Interest Transfers, Generation-Skipping Trusts, and FLP Valuation Discounts

Abstract: This Article offers three sets of proposals to reform the existing federal wealth transfer tax system, the common theme being the link between the timing of the taxable transfer and valuation. Under the first set of proposals, transfers with retained interests would be taxed at the first to occur of the transferor’s death or the date the interest expired. In addition, the term “retained interest” would be broadly construed to encompass the power to revoke and the possibility of receiving income or corpus under another person’s power. The second set of proposals relates to the generation-skipping tax. To achieve accurate valuation, the tax would be imposed only on taxable distributions, and the exemptions would either be the unused gift/estate exemptions of deemed transferors or separate per-transferee exemptions. The third set of proposals relates to valuation discounts of interests in family-held entities, mostly family limited partnerships. The lack-of-marketability discount for family investment-holding entities should be ignored because the tax-motivated destructions of non-unique value are against public policy, and the removal of the value-depressing restrictions is likely to occur in the future. Minority-interest discounts should not be recognized where minority status exists by reason of marital property rights or arises by gift or bequest. As a transition rule (or as an alternate approach), the disappearance of value-depressing restrictions and the recombining of minority interests into a majority interest should, where valuation discounts were previously obtained, be subject to a recapture excise tax.

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