Legal Blog

Avoiding an Adverse Tax Impact on Death of an S Corporation Shareholder

As Published on American Bar Association – ABA Tax Section

I. Introduction

One of the main reasons to consider a partnership for owning a business rather than an S Corporation is the adverse impact upon death if the business is held by an S Corporation. Now there are solutions to this problem for S Corporation shareholders that tax advisers need to add to their toolbox. These solutions convert the tax status of the business from an S Corporation to a partnership for federal tax purposes, in a federal income tax-neutral manner. This can be accomplished through liquidation in the case of a deceased shareholder or reorganization prior to death of a shareholder.

A. Upon the Death of an S Corporation Owner

Specifically, upon the death of an S Corporation owner, the heirs are denied the benefits of receiving a step-up in bases in underlying corporate assets to fair market value. In a partnership, the heirs receive a full income tax-free step-up in basis for all of the underling partnership assets and the benefits of obtaining the income tax shelter from new large depreciation deductions. However, in an S Corporation when the owner dies, the shareholder heirs only receive a step-up of basis in the corporate stock equal to the fair market value of the company at the date of death. The underlying S Corporation assets retain the same pre-death tax bases even though the decedent estates in both cases have the same federal estate tax implications and costs. Therefore, the S Corporation heirs should consider promptly liquidating the corporation to also achieve an income-tax neutral stepped-up basis for the company’s assets. This same technique can also be considered if a surviving shareholder buys out the estate of a deceased shareholder.


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To view the article on the American Bar Association website, which was published on March 21, 2021, click here.

If you have questions about this or any other legal matter, please feel free to contact Herb Fineburg at 267.338.1376 or Charles McCauley, III at 484.531.1712.


ABOUT HERB FINEBURG | 267.338.1376

Herb Fineburg is a Shareholder and Managing Partner of the Philadelphia Office. Mr. Fineburg is recognized as one of Philadelphia’s most respected business lawyers whose substantial knowledge of tax law provides clients with strategic and cost-saving benefits in connection with commercial transactions, taxation and wills, trusts and estates matters. Known for his ability to resolve complicated matters effectively, Mr. Fineburg has assisted businesses and individuals with the organization of their finances, business and real estate affairs, and the structure of their assets (i.e., in LLCs, partnerships, corporations, trusts or joint ownership). He has substantial expertise in the preparation of buy-sell agreements for co-owners who are family members or unrelated business partners and has handled the resolution of shareholder and partner disputes and buy-outs. In addition, to working on bank financings, business contracts and employment matters for his business clients, Mr. Fineburg also provides advice on business acquisitions and sales. Mr. Fineburg, who began his law career as a commercial litigator and bankruptcy lawyer, frequently provides litigation counsel and assistance to a wide range of firm clients. His articles have appeared in the Pennsylvania CPA Journal, the Journal of S Corporation Taxation and other publications. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Mr. Fineburg received his law degree from the University of Missouri and a Master of Laws in Taxation (LL.M) from the New York University School of Law, Graduate Division.



Charles “Max” A. McCauley III is an attorney with extensive business experience. Mr. McCauley is a member of Offit Kurman’s business law and transaction practice group as a principal attorney in the suburban Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware offices. Mr. McCauley’s practice has involved corporate, banking, real estate, employment, tax, corporate and commercial litigation, and bankruptcy matters. He also advises clients on electronic discovery issues and is the former co-chair of the E-Discovery and Technology Law Section of the Delaware State Bar Association




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