Analysts are reviewing President Obama's economic stimulus package to find winners and losers. Who should turn up a big winner than Seattle's Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and owner of Vulcan Inc., the local real estate company already deriving big benefits from Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' subsidies for its South Lake Union development.
Allen owns a majority stake in Charter Communications, which this month said it would reduce its debt burden by $8 billion and enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to tax experts, principals in a firm such as Charter normally would have to pay taxes on debt forgiven in such a process — a one-time income windfall called "a deemed distribution."
But wait a minute. The stimulus bill provides that companies such as Charter will be able to delay paying taxes on forgiven debt until 2014 and will have until 2018 to pay it off. Robert Willens, a tax expert, has told the Wall Street Journal that Allen, with a presumed tax rate of 25 percent, could through his share in Charter avoid paying as much as $1 billion in taxes until 2014.
The online Silicon Alley Insider speculates on where Allen might invest his windfall. New green or fuel-efficient technologies? Nah, the Insider says, Allen probably would be best served to invest in purchase of a personal third yacht. Yachts are available now at bargain prices and, by 2014, such a purchase could prove to be an astute investment.
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