Kerman v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, No. 11-1822 (6th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Kerman founded Kenmark. By 2000 its annual sales of eyeglass frames approached $35 million. Kerman’s personal net worth topped $12.5 million. Kerman was Kenmark’s sole owner until 2000, when Kerman sold 27 percent of his stock for $6.1 million to Kenmark’s employee stock ownership plan, realizing a taxable gain of $5.4 million. Kerman consulted his financial advisor and pursued a “Custom Adjustable Rate Debt Structure,” tax-saving strategy. A British company (not subject to U.S. tax law) borrowed foreign currency from a foreign bank; the U.S. taxpayer would receive some of the borrowed currency, would agree to be jointly liable for the entire loan, and would exchange his portion of the foreign currency for dollars. A currency exchange is taxable. The taxpayer would claim that the currency’s basis was the full loan amount, not the small amount of currency actually purchased. Because of the inflated basis, the taxpayer would claim a loss. The dollars would be deposited in the same foreign bank with the balance of the foreign currency and be used to pay off the loan. The IRS disallowed the deduction and imposed a penalty, 26 U.S.C. 6662(e), 6662(h). The tax court and Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that the transaction lacked economic substance and Kerman lacked good faith to believe that it did.