Tax Break for Investors in Qualified Small Business Stock

I was talking to a client in Cupertino this week about helping his friend with a start-up business in San Jose. Originally, my client wanted to form a corporation online by himself, but he was not sure if the company should be an S corporation (“S-corp”) or a C corporation (“C-corp”). He was only thinking about the pass-through implications of an S corporation and the “double taxation” of a C corporation, but was unaware of the small business stock tax exclusion in C corporations and the potential benefit to investors.

I explained that as an incentive to investors to make long term investments in small businesses, for investments made after September 27, 2010 but before January 1, 2012, 100% of the capital gain from qualified small business stock held for more than five years will not be taxed. The amount of gain excluded is the greater of $10 million or ten times the taxpayer’s basis in the stock (usually the amount paid for the shares).

To qualify for this incentive, there is a list of rules. The taxpayer must acquire the stock upon its original issuance for cash, property or services. The corporation must be a C corporation with a maximum of $50 million in assets, including the investment. It must not be a regulated investment company, real estate investment trust, real estate mortgage investment trust or other type of entity with special taxation, must not own investments or real estate with a value exceeding 10% of its total assets, must not own portfolio stock or securities with a value exceeding 10% of net assets, and must use at least 80% of the value of its total assets in the active conduct of a trade or business. The corporation’s trade or business cannot include professional services, banking, insurance, financing, leasing or the hotel or restaurant business.

Because this start-up company qualified for the small business stock exclusion, and the client was hoping to grow the company with investment from third parties, he decided a C corporation was the right choice. Also, because he realized how much he did not know about forming a new corporation, he asked me to do the formation for him. Once it is formed we will talk about the best way for him to get his promised share of the company.