Our recent 2019 legislative session has resulted in a change to commerce tax filing requirements. When the commerce tax was instituted in 2017, every business was required to file an annual return with the Department of Taxation. Senate Bill 497 (SB 497) has removed the requirement for certain business entities from filing an annual commerce tax return with the Department of Taxation—specifically, those with a gross revenue of $4,000,000 or less no longer need to file a return. The law is effective for the 2018-2019 taxable year as well as future tax years. If the Nevada gross revenue for a business from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019 was over $4,000,000, that business is still required to file a commerce tax return on or before August 14th, 2019. In the event that an entity’s gross revenue exceeds the $4,000,000 threshold in a future year, it is the business owner’s responsibility to file a return for the year. Failure to file may result in the assessment of penalty and interest.
As discussed in my prior post on asset protection, at Incline Law Group we are always looking for ways to protect our clients’ assets by achieving two goals 1) separating business assets from personal ownership and 2) separating business assets from each other by avoiding common ownership. There are many ways to do this and the best way depends on the type of assets, the risk level associated with your assets, financing issues, personal preference, taxes and many other factors.
For real estate investment, such as ownership of a number of income properties, a Nevada Series Limited Liability Companies can be a really great entity structure to maximize asset protection and minimize administrative costs. Series LLCs are not for everyone, so carefully analyzing the benefits to your business assets with your attorney and CPA is extremely important.
A Series LLC looks similar to a parent company/subsidiary sort of structure. A master company is filed with the Nevada Secretary of State, like any other LLC, but with an election to be a Series LLC. The creation of any number of series companies is authorized in the Series LLC governing documents. When a new series company is needed, it can be formed internally and is not registered with the Secretary of State, thus minimizing filing fees. While each series company may have its own tax ID number, a single tax return may be filed which can maximize tax benefits of profit and loss sharing across the series companies.
This type of entity structure can be a great fit for real estate holdings. For example, if I own 5 rental properties, I can put each property into a series company. I am able to save licensing and filing fees, as well as potentially file a single tax return, but at the same time, each of those series companies is treated as a distinct and separate LLC (so long as I follow all applicable statutory, financial and governance rules). Therefore, I have achieved a great deal of asset protection while minimizing costs.
Again, Series LLCs are not for everyone. They do require extra TLC when it comes to banking, financials and bookkeeping. They also have limited application if your assets are located in another state, such as California. But if, after careful investigation, it looks like a Series LLC may fit your needs, it is a structure that can be a fantastic tool for asset protection.
It is quite common for clients to tell me that they thought their standard family revocable grantor trust would serve to protect assets from creditors. This is a very common misconception. Your standard revocable family trust does not in fact provide any asset protection. There are certain types of trusts that can provide assert protection, such as Nevada irrevocable asset protection trusts. However, it is not always necessary to utilize these very advanced estate planning techniques for the average person to protect assets from creditors.
When seeking to protect assets we seek to achieve two goals:
- separate your business assets from your personal assets.
- separate your business assets from other business assets.
For example, if you own a primary residence and two office buildings, your first consideration might be putting the office buildings into an entity (LLC, Series LLC, Corporation or the like) and removing them from being titled under your individual name. The second consideration would be to separate the assets from each other by putting each office building into separate entities.
Why is this type of structure recommended? Because if everything is in your individual name and one of the tenants sues for a slip and fall, and obtains a judgment against you, it will be a personal judgment and your personal assets may be subject to that judgment, including your home. If all of your assets are in your name, you have created one big bucket of aggregated value for a judgment creditor to dip into.
However, if the business assets are held in an entity structure, you are starting to create multiple buckets which hold fewer assets and less value. The tenant, in this case will be limited to seeking a judgment against the business at which s/he fell and recover only against its assets, which will no longer include your personal home. Further, if we have taken the extra step of separating the business assets from each other, then we are again creating more buckets and minimizing the value that is available for satisfaction of the judgment in each bucket.
Every client’s needs, level of risk and level of risk tolerance are different. Additionally there may be tax and other considerations when looking at entity structures. Corporate formalities and relevant laws must be adhered to in any entity structure to maintain the protections they can afford. It is important to discuss all of these issues with your legal counsel and CPA before forming new entities and transferring assets.
You spent a great deal of time and effort to earn and grow your assets. A well thought out asset protection plan is important to safekeeping them.
It is true that Nevada does not impose corporate income taxes. This and the fact that Nevada also does not impose personal income tax makes it a very business-friendly state. However, this does not mean that you can escape taxation simply by forming a corporation or limited liability company in Nevada. First, regardless of where you incorporate, the Fed’s are always entitled to a piece of the action, whether that is recovered through corporate taxes or personal taxes. Second, if you are doing business in another state, you may be required to register to do business in that state, which may mean paying annual registration fees as well as state corporate income taxes or other taxes imposed by that state. Third, if you are not a resident of Nevada, you may be obligated to pay state personal income tax in whichever state you do reside.
So what constitutes “doing business” in another state? Here is a lawyer answer for you – it depends. Every state has a different statutory definition of what constitutes doing business in that state. It is fairly safe to say that if you repeatedly conduct activities in a state, like shipping goods from a warehouse or having salespeople visiting customers on a regular basis, that is likely to be considered “doing business” in that state. This may mean that you need to register your business to do business in that state.
While Nevada is one of the most business-friendly states around, which is one of the many reasons we love our beautiful Silver State, forming an LLC or corporation here, if you are not actually conducting business in our fair state, is not necessarily going to help you avoid taxes in another state. The solution, of course, is for you to bring your business to Nevada. We would welcome you with open arms. But short of that, you should consult with an attorney and/or CPA before electing the state in which you incorporate your business
How Should I/We Hold Title to My/Our Property?
When you get to the closing on your new home, the escrow company will often ask, “How do you want to hold title?”
The answer to this question may depend on a number of factors, such as whether you are married, whether you are purchasing the property with someone else or whether you have a trust for your estate. There may be other factors such as whether this is a property intended for investment or whether you are purchasing in the name of a corporation or LLC.
But for most individuals, the most common options are fairly straight forward. It should be noted that the discussion below is not exhaustive and that there may be other forms of vesting that could be of benefit in your specific circumstances. Similarly, not all states are community property states and for those that are, the existence and terms of pre or post-nuptial agreements are critical to vesting decisions. Vesting is the way we describe how the title to the property is held – with different forms of vesting comes different rights and obligations of joints owners that are not discussed here. It is important that you consult with an attorney to determine the best form of vesting for your circumstances.
This post is broken up into 4 parts which are intended to cover the most common forms of vesting in the four most common circumstances: Part I) if you have a trust; Part II) if you are purchasing property in your name only; Part III) if you are unmarried and purchasing with another person; and Part IV) if you are married. As a bonus, since we are talking about title(s), if you can name the artists for each of these songs titles, please post your answers!
Part I: A Matter of Trust
Generally if you have a trust, and the property is intended as your primary residence, you will likely title it in the name of the trustee of your trust. This is true whether you are single or married and often if you are purchasing with someone else to whom you are not married. You should always consult with your estate planning attorney when transferring property into or out of your trust.
Part II: All the Single Ladies
If you are purchasing property as an unmarried person and in your name only, the vesting is pretty much just that, as an individual (you may see this written as a an unmarried woman/man or single woman/man which is a coded reference to whether you are divorced or never married – if you object to this, as I do, you can simply request that title be vested in your name as an individual).
If you are married, but you are purchasing the property as your separate property, the title will generally read just that: Jane Smith, a married woman as her sole and separate property. In community property states, in order for your spouse to disclaim any community property interest in the property s/he may be required to sign a Quit Claim or Interposal Deed.
Part III: Our House
If you are purchasing property with another person that is not your spouse, you really have two choices: “joint tenants” or “tenants in common”. With joint tenancy, each owner has an undivided equal interest in the property. More importantly, joint tenancy comes with an automatic right of survivorship. This means that when one joint tenant/owner dies, his/her interest automatically transfers to the remaining owner(s). If one of the joint tenants transfers her/his ownership interest during their lifetime, this can destroy the joint tenancy and convert the ownership to tenancy in common.
More than one owner can also own property as tenants in common. In this case, each owner will own a percentage of an undivided interest in the property i.e. the ownership interest does not have to be equal. With joint tenancy there is no right of survivorship and when one joint tenant dies the interest is freely transferable to the decedent’s heirs. In Nevada, if the type of vesting is not specified, our statutes provide that the default vesting is tenancy in common.
Part IV: Love and Marriage
Married couples can also hold property as joint tenants or tenants in common. However, both California and Nevada have the option for married couples to hold property as “community property” or “community property with right of survivorship”. The community property with right of survivorship vesting carries two very important benefits, namely the automatic right of survivorship when one spouse dies and a tax benefit known as a “step up in basis”.
What this means is, when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse gets the benefit of a readjustment of the tax basis in the property up to the current value. This is important if, say, a married couple purchased the house in 1970 for $100,000. At the time of the death of the first spouse in 2016, the house is valued at $700,000. The surviving spouse elects to sell and downsize, without the step up in basis the surviving spouse could be subject to capital gains tax on the difference between the original basis of $100,000 and the new value of $700,000. If the property was vested as community property with right of survivorship, the surviving spouse would get the tax benefit of the step up in basis.
If a married couple holds title simply as community property (without the right of survivorship), they can take advantage of the step up in basis, but the transfer of title to the surviving spouse will not be automatic and may require probate.
As noted above, there are many ways for individuals to hold title to real property. This post only discuses a few of the most common. Because there are tax and legal consequences to how title is held, it is important that you consult with an attorney to help you sort out the best approach for your needs. And do keep in mind that you can always change the vesting after close of escrow!