Because partnerships have many different features from corporations, a question is frequently asked concerning partnerships: when do they officially end? While corporations theoretically have an indefinite life and identifying the closure of a corporation may sometimes be regarded as relatively easy, it may not always be as apparent when a partnership has terminated.
This article will explain the basics of partnership termination for U.S. federal tax purposes only (please, consult specific state statutes for relevant partnership termination provisions). Remember that there are numerous exceptions to and modifications of these basic rules on state and federal levels. This article is not intended to constitute tax or legal advice.
Partnerships can involve many complex tax and legal issues, so it may be advisable to seek an experienced attorney in these matters. Failure to do proper tax planning can result in significant adverse tax consequences. Sherayzen Law Office, Ltd. can assist you in all of your partnership tax and legal needs, and help you avoid making costly mistakes.
Termination of a Partnership
There are many ways in which a partnership can be terminated; this article will focus only on several common situations. First, as should be obvious from the definition of a partnership, a partnership will end when it no longer has at least two partners. This may occur, for instance, when one partner purchases the other partner’s complete interest in a two-person partnership, thus creating a new sole proprietorship.
A partnership may also terminate if none of its partners continues to carry on the partnership’s business. This may occur, for example, because of a partnership liquidation.
The third way a partnership may terminate is if there is a sale or exchange of 50% or more of the total partnership capital and profits interest within a twelve-month period. In such a case, the IRS is likely to treat such situation as a formation of a new partnership. It is important to remember that multiple sales of shares of the same partnership interest with percentages less than 50% will not be aggregated. For example, assume that partner A in an equally-owned four person partnership ABCD sells his partnership share to a new partner, who subsequently sells this 25% share again to yet another new partner. In this case, the original ABCD partnership is likely to be treated as still existing (barring any other circumstance that forces the termination of a partnership). In most cases, a partnership will not be terminated simply because of the admittance of a new partner to the partnership.
Furthermore, the death or liquidation of a partner normally is not likely to terminate a partnership where a partner owns a minority partnership interest (unless, for example, it involves a two-person partnership). While the partnership itself may not be terminated, for the deceased or liquidated partner, the partnership tax year will end at that point. The share of partnership profits or loss will be determined as of the date of death or liquidation for that partner, and will be reported for tax purposes in the year the event occurs.
The examples above state the general law and it is highly important to remember that a partnership agreement may modify the application of this law to specific partnership. While, unless the law expressly permits so, a partnership agreement cannot override the law, it may add to it (for example, a death of a partner can be made a termination event in a partnership agreement even if this partner owned a very small percentage of the partnership interest). Therefore, you should always make sure to consult the existing partnership agreements before arriving to a legal conclusion. In such complex situations, it is highly advisable to retain an experienced attorney.
When two partnerships merge, partnership terminations may also arise, depending upon the circumstances. An interesting situation may occur under federal tax law where the IRS may deem the partnership of any partners who have more than a 50% interest in the newly-formed partnership to be continued. For instance, if partnership AB merges with partnership CD, and the partners of CD own more than a 50% interest in the new resulting partnership, partnership ABCD may be treated as a termination of partnership AB, and continuation of partnership CD.
Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Partnership Legal and Tax Help
If you own a partnership interest and would like to receive a legal and tax advice with respect such ownership, contact the experienced tax firm of Sherayzen Law Office.