In this issue
As tax time approaches, family business owners are busily undertaking numerous exercises to figure out how to reduce the company's tax burden. Often, these examinations lead to a second inquiry: how to improve benefits to family members and top executives while keeping tax liability to a minimum.
In recent years the IRS has nipped away at the tax advantages of various benefits plans. But benefits consultants have been busy too, developing a range of strategies that can be used to sweeten compensation packages, particularly in two areas: health insurance and pensions.
No one quite knows who came up with the formula. Somewhere along his family's multi-generational line of doctors, one of Yasuo Fuji's ancestors concocted an herbal formula that seemed almost miraculously to lessen the coughing and congestion associated with colds and flu.
Over time in family firms, it becomes harder and harder to keep everyone happy. Young family members who see little prospect of ever running the business think about leaving. Family stockholders in third generation companies may be getting little in the way of dividends while the managers are paying themselves well; they get more and more frustrated when they feel they have no influence.
The conversation starts innocently, but may come as a bolt of lightning. The business owner wanders into the office of a trusted senior manager — let's call him Old Joe — and announces: "You know my son Bill? He's decided he wants to come work for the company after all. He'll be here Monday morning. I'd like you to take him under your wing, teach him what he needs to know."