Sunday, October 1, 2017

Making Tax Reform Work for PEUs

House Speaker Paul Ryan visited Pennsylvania Machine Works to push tax reform.  The stated objective is to lower middle class taxes and corporate tax rates.  The framework proposes cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent  under the guise of growing American jobs.

Ryan ducked the carried interest taxation issue.  On Face the Nation he deferred it to the committee that will write the tax bill.  Carried interest taxation enables private equity underwriters (PEU) to pay a preferred, lower tax rate. 

Bloomberg list Penn Machine as a private company.   There is no evidence the company is private equity owned.

Foundry reported in May 2017 the sale of another Pennsylvania manufacturer similar to the plant Speaker Ryan visited:

Speyside Equity Fund I LP, a New York-based private-equity group, acquired Ashland Foundry and Machine Works Inc., a specialty steel foundry in eastern Pennsylvania. The foundry specializes in pump component and assemblies, for chemicals, mining, water, and industrial markets. The seller was Michael Bargani, an investor who also is listed as the owner of several other metalcasting businesses. The value of the purchase was not announced.. 

Speyside Equity is also the owner of Alcast Corp., Dalton Corp., Pacific Steel Castings, and Sawbrook Steel Castings. It has a range of other holdings in manufacturing, fabricating, specialty chemicals, and food ingredients businesses.
Owner Bargani purchased the plant in 2009 before flipping it to PEU Speyside Equity earlier this year.  Speyside's website states:

Speyside Equity is an operationally focused private equity firm that has been successfully investing in manufacturing-related businesses since 2005
A cut in corporate tax rates will increase corporate profits and enable PEU owners to siphon off more cash.  There's one major problem.  The PEU model is to load companies with debt which increase interest expense.  Interest is tax deductible, as are deal/management fees.  That means formerly tax paying corporations often don't owe taxes under PEU sponsorship.

Carried interest is the gift that enables billionaires to profit more when their PEU flips an affiliate.  It survived two runs in the last decade, thanks in part to Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein and a complicit Congress.  Carlyle's 10-k (filed in May 2017) states:

We earn management fees pursuant to contractual arrangements with the investment funds that we manage and fees for transaction advisory and oversight services provided to portfolio companies of these funds. We also typically receive a performance fee from an investment fund, which may be either an incentive fee or a special residual allocation of income, which we refer to as a carried interest.
Carlyle achieved a net income of over $400 million in 2015.  It made a provision of $2.1 million for income taxes.  That's a tax rate of 0.52%.

President Trump, like President Obama before him, ran on eliminating the carried interest loophole.  Trump's team is waffling on his commitment.  President Obama made $400,000 from speaking to The Carlyle Group annual investor meeting.  Carlyle's founders have made hay off preferred carried interest taxation.

I expect Trump's tax reform will benefit the PEU boys, many of whom serve in his Cabinet.  The question is in how many ways?  Paul Ryan and Congress are expected to deliver yet again.