As Structured Settlements continue to evolve beyond their traditional personal, physical injury roots, many people have enjoyed the benefits of having taxable income deferred into a future year while earning pre-tax interest along the way. "Structured Settlement-like" offerings abound and we are proud to offer assorted fixed-term solutions to our non-personal, physical injury clients.
"You must pay taxes. But there's no law
that says you gotta leave a tip."
- Author Unknown -
After all, who among us wants to pay more in taxes than necessary?
And since the desire and ability to legally defer taxes is as old as the Tax Code itself, it makes tremendous financial sense to take advantage of available solutions to managing one's tax burdens. Most everyone has probably achieved some sort of tax-deferral through 401(k)s, Defined Benefit Plans, 1031 Exchanges and the like. But most are unaware there are other possibilities.
The Nonqualified Assignment process, when applied to a host of nontraditional tax-deferral situations - Structured Attorney Fees, Structured Sales, Structured Employment Disputes, Structured Divorce and Child Support Agreements to name a few - is a great tool we are proud to offer to those who may qualify when these unique planning opportunities arise.
Which brings us to today's discussion about one such application of Nonqualified Assignments:
Structured Celebrity Endorsements
Open any magazine, turn on any television show and sooner or later you're sure to see an advertisement where a well-known person is promoting a product. Got Milk? David Beckham, Taylor Swift and even Batman are there to help encourage you to drink more. Thinking of buying a burger from a fast food chain? Paris Hilton washes a car to convince you that Carl's Jr. is the best place to go for one even if the connection between the two remains unclear. And while advertisers typically choose a celebrity at the height of their popularity to endorse its products, one company, Nationwide Insurance, has had quite a bit of fun interjecting celebrities like MC Hammer and Kevin Federline, whose "fifteen minutes of fame" has long since passed, into its commercials.
What happens, then, when the celebrity is no longer interesting?
What if an athlete becomes injured and can no longer command lucrative endorsement deals? Or how about when scandal tarnishes the image of a role model celebrity perceived to have been beyond reproach and the contract is terminated? Or when, for seemingly no reason at all, the "flavor of the week" simply fades into "last year's model" if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor. What happens then?
Endorsement opportunities present a good news/bad news situation to the endorser. The endorsement money can be very good. But since it often comes during the prime income producing years, often times the resulting tax burden is higher than it would be if the income arrived in a later, post-career year. Or if the income could be spread out over time. Structured Celebrity Endorsement deals solves this problem.
Enter the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004
The passage of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 opened the door for the use of structured settlement-like products we were already using in other areas that involved Nonqualified Assignments. The Act added Section 409A
to the Internal Revenue Code which established some ground rules for Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans. Final Regulations on the Act became effective on April 17, 2007. Without getting into too much detail (which we'll save for the clients' lawyers and CPAs), 409A establishes who can, who can't, when, where and how to go about deferring certain taxes.
Similar to Taxable Claim Settlements and Structured Attorney Fees: The net effect of Structured Celebrity Endorsements is very similar to the Taxable Claims and Attorney Fees which have been structuring for years. The concept is the same. Different sections of the Tax Code apply.
Relatively speaking and with some notable exceptions, the vast majority of professional athletes and celebrities have a fairly short window of time within which to capitalize on their success. During one's "It Girl" stage, they are often presented with attractive endorsement opportunities. Companies hire athletes and other celebrities to pitch products and businesses to the rest of us. In exchange, the endorser celebrity receives compensation. Often, the endorsement fee is paid in the year of services rendered or over the period of time the product is pitched.
But doesn't Derek Jeter already make enough money playing for the Yankees? Wouldn't he possibly be better off allocating some of his Gillette Fusion Razor money into a future year when his playing days are over? Using a Structured Celebrity Endorsement he can!
Here's how it works:
Clients negotiate to have their endorsement money (normally paid to them in a lump sum the year of the advertisement) paid into an annuity which pays endorsement money "and then some" out over a schedule they choose.
The Endorsee pays the lump sum (i.e. the prearranged present value of the future compensation), through a Nonqualified Assignment process, to a highly secure life insurance company that agrees to make payments according to a prearranged schedule in the future.
Deal done this year. No added cost to the company paying the endorsement fee. They pay the same either way.
Highly secure payments arrive, tax-deferred and with interest, in ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road or whenever the celebrity endorser thinks the income will make the most sense. 1099s arrive in the year the income is received.
They can set aside money for retirement, children's education, or any future need desired. The possibilities are nearly infinite.
The process is rather straightforward and the paperwork relatively simple. Endorsers will want to consult with their own tax and/or legal counsel before entering into any agreement since we do not give tax advice. And, since there's no way to know for sure what future tax rates may look like, clients should base their decisions on various assumptions about future interest rates and tax brackets. But it's probably safe to say that the notion of deferring money and taxes has more than casual appeal to most people. Celebrities included.
So be sure to tell all your celebrity friends, neighbors, family and clients about this exciting opportunity we offer. We're here to help. You might even want to mention it to those celebrities-in-waiting surrounding you. After all, you never know when the next Shawn White will emerge from your neighborhood. Chris Plys has yet to appear on a Wheaties box but with curling recently taking the Vancouver Olympics by storm, you never know. So keep your eyes open.
In the end, because celebrities and even pseudo-celebrities never know how long or how bright their star will shine, they, like all of us, should carefully plan for their future. And lest you have doubts about how fleeting celebrity can be, just ask former American Idol contestant William Hung what he thinks of the fickle public. That is, if you can find him.
Thank you for the opportunity to be of service!
Dan Finn, CPCU, CSSC
Certified Structured Settlement Consultant