I've heard it said that one of the advantages of going to a name brand college is the people you end up meeting there. That is how it seems to have worked out for Jason Chai. Jason Chai was in Tax Court arguing about whether he owed self-employment tax on $2 million he received. We'll get to that, but this is one of the cases where the story behind the story is much more interesting than the tax issues that were decided in the case. As usual I should note, the story I am telling is what the Tax Court ended up believing. I did not do any independent inquiries.
NEVADA PARTNERS FUND, LLC v. U.S, Cite as 105 AFTR 2d 2010-2133, 04/30/2010
At the October 2, 2001, meeting, Williams and his attorneys met with KPMG agent Donna Bruce, who understood that the purpose of the meeting was to alleviate large gains arising from the B.C. Rogers note exchange, having been informed that the gain would amount to nearly $20,000,000.00. She told Williams that KPMG had been recommending to its clients facing the imminent prospect of large ordinary and capital gains a new strategy to be pursued through an investment advisor experienced in financial structure, hedge funds and more exotic forms of investment designed to provide tax benefits. Bruce named several investment advisors to be considered by Williams, including a hedge fund called Bricolage, LLC, in New York City, an entity owned and managed by one Andrew Beer.
Another convoluted KPMG deal that didn't work out as intended. I think I'm going to stop studying these things as I might get confused by them.
The tax shelters were designed to eliminate Delta's clients' tax liabilities by generating noneconomic tax losses to offset the clients' taxable income. The tax shelters shared three key characteristics: (1) each centered around the formation of a flowthrough entity; (2) each involved a straddle comprising offsetting derivatives into which the POPS or PICO entity entered; and (3) each required a transitory partner or shareholder in the POPS or PICO entity to whom the entity allocated income from the derivatives so that a tax shelter investor could recognize offsetting tax losses. To facilitate the transactions, Delta provided a transitory partner or accommodating party. The POPS and PICO entities allocated income to the accommodating party and allocated noneconomic losses to Delta's clients to offset their large tax liabilities. Petitioner was an accommodating party. For its part, Delta received sizable fees for advising its clients on the tax shelters and facilitating the clients' participation.
Petitioner was an accommodating party for at least 131 tax shelters, having reported over $3.2 billion of noneconomic income, allocated to him by the tax shelters, on his 2000 and 2001 income tax returns. This income was approximately equal to the amounts of offsetting noneconomic tax losses allocated to Delta's clients. To relieve petitioner's concerns about increased tax liabilities, Beer assured petitioner that there were strategies they could use to offset petitioner's tax liabilities on the basis of his participation in the tax shelters. Notably, petitioner received and reported offsetting losses from the POPS and PICO entities for 2000 and 2001 approximately equal to amounts of income allocated to him from the tax shelters.
Petitioner received significant compensation from the Bricolage entities in exchange for his participation in the tax shelters. For instance, in 2000 petitioner received $1.2 million from Counterpoint as a signing bonus, and in 2001 JJC received $1 million from Delta. Counterpoint and Delta reported these payments on Forms 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income (Form 1099), as nonemployee compensation, and petitioner reported them as income on Forms 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and paid the resulting tax. Petitioner also received several other payments from Bricolage and Counterpoint, totaling $100,000 per year for 2001 and 2002 and reflecting Beer's agreement with petitioner that he would receive an annual salary of $100,000 in exchange for his participation. Bricolage and Counterpoint reported all of these amounts as petitioner's wages, and petitioner paid the resulting tax.
Before petitioner received the $2 million payment, however, he and Del Bove had exchanged several emails in February 2003 discussing the proper tax treatment of the $2 million payment. Del Bove notified petitioner that Delta was going to wire petitioner the $436,000 remaining in JJC, dissolve that entity, and pay petitioner an additional $2 million. In response, petitioner asked: “To this end, can you fill me in on how this money should be treated as far as my accountant is concerned? Will I be issued a 1099 for the whole amount?” Del Bove responded that the $2 million payment “will be reported on a 1099, so you should tax-plan accordingly.” Petitioner again asked for clarification on whether both the $2 million payment and the balance in the JJC account were going to be reported on his Forms 1099 for 2003. Del Bove responded that "[t]he amount you receive from JJC Trading is not income and, therefore, will not be reported on a 1099. That money is from what you had originally invested in JJC Trading. The [*10] 2mm we pay you will be reported on a 1099, as well as any other subsequent payments.”
The trial testimony supports the conclusion that the $2 million payment was compensation subject to self-employment tax. Although petitioner attempts to minimize his role in the tax shelters and describes his activities as investments, the record reflects that he provided services to Delta to facilitate the tax shelter transactions. Beer testified that petitioner's role in the tax shelters was a critical component of the transactions and the tax shelters could not have functioned as planned without petitioner's participation. Delta could not have allocated noneconomic losses to its clients without petitioner's acting as the accommodating party. The allocation of $3.2 billion of noneconomic income to petitioner enabled Delta's clients to reap the benefits of an almost equal amount of noneconomic losses to offset their taxable income. Petitioner's role was far from nominal.Petitioner argues that because he delegated decision making authority to Bricolage, he did not perform any meaningful services for Delta (or any of the other Bricolage entities). Petitioner's income cannot escape taxation merely because he delegated certain duties to Bricolage and Beer. The risky nature and large receipts of the tax shelters provide ample justification for the high compensation relative to the low amount of personal effort involved.
Jason was frequently a visitor to Andrew’s office, signing away his life, fortune and sacred honor as partner in any number of fiddles, and receiving a piece of the bounty bestowed on Andrew by his tax-dodging clientele.