Discover a pair of underappreciated exit planning vehicles. Charitable remainder unit trusts (CRUTs) and charitable remainder annuity trusts (CRATs) are commonly seen as estate planning tools. What frequently goes unseen is their value in exit planning for business owners.
Does it look like you will sell your company to a third party? Do your “second act” or “third act” goals include financial independence, philanthropy and leaving significant wealth for your heirs? If you find yourself answering “yes” to these questions, a CRUT or CRAT may help you accomplish those objectives and enhance your outcome.
CRUTs & CRATs are variations of charitable remainder trusts (CRTs). A CRT is an irrevocable tax-exempt trust that you can fund with highly appreciated C corporation stock (or optionally, other types of highly appreciated assets).
How do you sell your ownership interest through a CRUT or CRAT? As the trust creator (or grantor), you donate said C corp stock to the CRUT or CRAT. Because the trust is tax-exempt, it can sell those highly appreciated C corp shares without triggering immediate capital gains tax.
The CRUT or CRAT sells your ownership shares to the outside buyer of your company, and it becomes your tax-exempt retirement fund. It invests the cash realized from the sale of your ownership shares in either fixed-income or growth securities; it provides you with recurring payments out of the trust principal, which occur for X number of years or for the duration of your life (or even longer). The payments can even go to people other than yourself – they can optionally go to your parents, they could go to your grandkids.
You are offered another tax break as well. You can take a one-time charitable income tax deduction for the value of the donation used to fund the trust (i.e., a tax deduction applicable in the current tax year). This demands an appraisal of the highly appreciated assets being donated to the CRUT or CRAT, obviously. The deduction amount also depends on calculations using IRS life expectancy tables, the term of the trust, interest rates, and payout schedules and amounts.
On one level, a CRUT or CRAT is an agreement you make with the IRS. In exchange for all these tax perks, you agree to give 10% or more of the initial value of the CRUT or CRAT to a qualified charity or non-profit organization. Many CRUT or CRAT grantors intend to leave no more than that to charity.
When the grantor passes away, a last tax break occurs. While 100% of the trust assets now become part of his or her taxable estate, the estate may take a deduction for the remainder interest that goes to the qualified charity or non-profit.
Some CRUT and CRAT grantors strategize to offset the eventual gifting of 10% (or more) of trust assets. They have the beneficiaries of the CRUT or CRAT fund an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT). When the grantor passes away, they receive insurance proceeds sufficient to replace the “lost” wealth. Since the ILIT owns the life insurance policy, the life insurance payout isn’t included in the taxable estate of the deceased and it isn’t subject to transfer taxes.
What’s the fundamental difference between a CRUT & a CRAT? The difference concerns the recurring payments out of the trust to the grantor. In a CRUT, those payments represent a percentage of the fair market value of the principal of the trust (and that principal is revalued annually). In a CRAT, they represent a fixed percentage of the initial value of the principal.
Older business owners may find the CRAT is a more appealing choice, while younger business owners may be more attracted to the CRUT. Yearly distributions from a CRUT must amount to at least 5% and no more than 50% of the trust principal revalued annually. Yearly distributions from a CRAT must come to at least 5% but no more than 50% of the initial value of the donated assets.
Can an owner fund a CRUT or CRAT with S corp shares? No. A charitable remainder trust can’t serve as a shareholder in an S corp, so if you donate S corp stock to a CRT, there goes your S corp status. It should also be noted that C corp stock subject to recourse debt can’t go into a CRT.1
Are you interested in learning more? Talk to a financial or tax professional about the potential of CRUTs and CRATs. What you learn may lead you toward a better outcome for your business.