Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Citigroup's "Massive" Tax Break

by Bill McBride on 12/15/2009 11:11:00 PM

The WaPo has an article about a tax break for Citigroup: U.S. gave up billions in tax money in deal for Citigroup's bailout repayment

The Internal Revenue Service on Friday issued an exception to long-standing tax rules for the benefit of Citigroup and a few other companies partially owned by the government. As a result, Citigroup will be allowed to retain billions of dollars worth of tax breaks that otherwise would decline in value when the government sells its stake to private investors.

While the Obama administration has said taxpayers are likely to profit from the sale of the Citigroup shares, accounting experts said the lost tax revenue could easily outstrip those profits.
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Federal tax law lets companies reduce taxable income in a good year by the amount of losses in bad years. But the law limits the transfer of those benefits to new ownership as a way of preventing profitable companies from buying losers to avoid taxes. Under the law, the government's sale of its 34 percent stake in Citigroup, combined with the company's recent sales of stock to raise money, qualified as a change in ownership.

The IRS notice issued Friday saves Citigroup from the consequences by stipulating that the government's share sale does not count toward the definition of an ownership change.
Who benefits? The value of the shares the U.S. owns should increase, but only 34% of the share price increase accrues to U.S. taxpayers The other current shareholders receive the rest. So this doesn't seem to make sense ...