Thursday, February 18, 2010
Uncertainty about the estate tax has caused all sorts of problems for estate planners and their wealthy clients. The estate tax expired at the end of 2010, but if Congress does nothing, the tax in 2011 will affect more people than it did in 2009. And Congress may do something - but no one knows what Congress will do and whether it will be retroactive. In addition to all the other planning problems this causes, charities are beginning to worry about a possible effect on charitable giving. An article in the Pittsburgh Tribune discusses the problems caused by the uncertainly surrounding the estate tax, including possible losses of charitable gifts. Some people commenting in the article suggest that because many people are in a holding pattern, gifts already written into wills will stay there but someone planning an estate may be reluctant to include a charitable gift until the impact of the estate tax on the person's family becomes clear.
After Manny Ramirez pledged to donate $1 million of his $45 million contract to the Dodgers' charitable foundation, the Dodgers owner thought it would be a good idea to include "Ramirez provisions" in all contracts, in amounts of the players' choosing. Other Major League ball clubs followed suit, and some 109 contracts now contain the provision. One problem seems to be that the provisions require donations to the club's own foundation and limit the players' ability to pick their own charities for donations, but the coercive nature of the provisions in general concerned the players' union. The LA Times has reported that a union grievance about these provisions has been settled. The settlement has not been officially announced, but a management official said that the settlement permits the provision in contracts signed by players signing as free agents or buying out a year or years of free agency when signing a long-term contract. A spokesperson for the Dodgers says that the club will continue to encourage charitable giving by its players, even without the provisions.