When private companies decide to list their stock on a major stock exchange, they participate in what’s called an initial public offering (IPO). It’s a way for the company to create liquidity for shareholders and raise capital by selling shares of the company to the public. The company can then use the newly acquired capital to grow the company.
The investment bank that underwrites the IPO attempts to set the initial price at the fair market value to maximize the sale proceeds for the new public company. If they set it too low the price will rise once trading starts and the company will lose out on revenue that they could have made had they set the initial price higher.
Earlier this month Zoom Communications and Pinterest both had IPO’s with first-day gains of 72 percent and 28 percent respectively. However, most investors don’t have access to IPO shares at the pre-trading price. They must buy when the market opens. Investors who bought on the open actually lost 1.6 percent on Zoom and made 2.7 percent on Pinterest. Not all IPO’s work well. In fact, investors might do well to avoid the IPO’s with the most hype.
Lyft, the ride-sharing competitor to Uber fell more than 30 percent from the price it started trading at. Facebook, one of the most anticipated IPO’s in recent memory, actually lost more than half of its value from where it began trading before eventually doing quite well. In fact, according to Barron’s, IPO’s have underperformed the broad market by a decent margin since 1980.
Many accredited investors are allocating a portion of their investments to private equity funds. These funds invest in younger private companies before they go public, typically at a valuation much lower than the IPO price. With access to private capital many private companies are growing to a much higher valuation before they go public. This means that there could be less potential upside in IPO’s than there has been historically.
Blackstone Group LP has been counseling its clients to use specially designed cash value life insurance to avoid paying taxes on investment gains. Life insurance has always had tremendous tax treatment. With new tax laws that were passed at the end of 2017, the tax benefits are potentially even more valuable. All growth and dividends compound tax-free (IRC Section 72). Basis can be withdrawn tax-free and gains can be withdrawn as tax-free loans (IRC 72 and 7702).
Finally, all death benefits are income-tax-free. Many tax advisers have been advising high-net-worth clients to take advantage of the preferential tax treatment afforded to life insurance. Blackstone’s subsidiary Lombard International estimated that their clients have placed more than $3 billion into cash value life insurance contracts over the past year.
These specially designed life insurance contracts can be used to invest in aggressive assets such as hedge funds or more traditional investments. Investors looking for less market risk in addition to tax-free growth and future tax-free income frequently use specially designed index universal life contracts. These insurance contracts earn interest based on the returns of a stock index like the S&P 500 subject to a cap of approximately 12 percent, but the contracts do not lose in the years the index is down. Additionally, all gains are typically locked in on an annual basis.
One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional cash value life insurance is that traditional policies have very significant insurance costs, which will reduce returns. However, if designed correctly, insurance costs can be minimized to about 1 percent per year, which is much less than the taxes would have been. Many companies are allowing the death benefit to be accessed tax-free in the event of the need for long-term care. Most importantly, a future tax-free retirement income could be even more valuable if tax rates rise in the future.
For conservative investors who have a limited appetite for risk, yet still yearn for good growth opportunities, there may be an attractive option. Several major U.S. banks, including JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, and Goldman Sachs have entered the equity-linked note/CD space. Notes are essentially short-term bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the issuer. CDs are backed by the issuer and indirectly by the U.S. government through FDIC insurance.
While there exist a multitude of permutations of equity-linked notes and CDs, for those looking for conservative growth, there are some interesting alternatives. Several major banks are offering five-year notes that credit interest like uncapped index annuities.
Several banks are currently quoting 110 to 120 percent participation in the S&P 500 index with a 30 percent downside buffer. Although index annuities typically provide a 100 percent downside buffer, according to AXIO, over the last 9,700 days, only 23 days had a five-year trailing return that was less than 30 percent. Therefore, a 30 percent buffer is probably going to protect all note holders from any loss.
Additionally, the structured notes have attractive tax treatment. No income is accrued until the note matures, and when it does, the increased value of the notes are taxed as long-term capital gains. With greater than 100 percent participation in the S&P 500 and much less investment risk, these notes provide a pretty compelling opportunity even for aggressive investors.
For those looking for FDIC insurance, structured CDs offer complete safety of principal, albeit with less upside. However, structured CDs and notes could lose value if not held to maturity. Current issues are offering 100 percent participation in the S&P 500 on five-year CDs with gains capped out at about 40 percent with no downside risk. With the average five-year return of the S&P 500 at 57.91 percent, structured CDs could pay substantially more than traditional CDs. Unlike structured notes, CDs will create annual taxable income, which will be taxed as ordinary income unless they are held in an IRA.
If you are fortunate enough to own property or investments that have appreciated significantly, the federal, and perhaps your state, government is patiently waiting to tax your profits when you sell. Luckily there are a few ways to delay or avoid the tax debt when the appreciated asset is sold.
An owner of real estate can sell their real estate and use the proceeds to purchase another piece of real estate without paying taxes if the formalities of IRS code section 1031 are followed. The favorable tax treatment of a so-called 1031 exchange used to apply to artwork as well, however the new tax laws eliminated the application of the 1031 code section to artwork.
Investors who realize a capital gain from any source (stocks, real estate, art and privately held business interests) can continue to defer taxes on the realized gains by investing their gains in specially designated economically distressed areas that have been designated as opportunity zones under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Another option is the use of an installment sale. Prior to the sale, an entity that is created and controlled by the seller purchases the appreciated asset in exchange for an installment note at the intended sale price and that entity sells the asset to the ultimate purchaser. Then the seller takes periodic income from the entity and only realizes gains as income is received.
Finally, a charitable remainder trust can allow the owner of appreciated property to not only avoid paying capital gains tax but to also receive a current tax deduction. The sale proceeds can be managed in any way desired and the sellers can receive a steady income from the sale proceeds for a term of years or for life or joint lives. Any assets remaining in the trust at the death of the sellers will go to the charity of the sellers’ choice.
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