Sole Proprietorships / Limited Partnerships / General Partnerships  / Charitable FLPs / Relational Partnerships
Family Limited Partnerships/FLLC / Limited Liability Companies / C Corporations / S Corporations  / 501(c)3
Garnishment as an Asset Protector / UCC 1 Connection

                  Limited  Partnership


"What makes a partnership work?  First, a confidence in the integrity and competence of one’s partners; secondly, a clear allocation of responsibility for office administration; and thirdly, good communications and a readiness to talk out problems before they become a crisis."    -   Wolfe D. Goodman

What is a Partnership? A partnership is a voluntary association of more than one person, usually formed for a limited term, for the purposes of carrying on a business as co-owners for profit. The relationship between the partners is governed by state law and the partnership agreement.   (Also see Relational FLP.)

The partnership agreement serves as a contract between the partners, setting forth the rights and duties of the partners, and specifying the basis and proportions for sharing profits and losses.

What is a General Partnership? A general partnership is the usual form a partnership takes. Under state law, in the absence of any special provision in the partnership agreement to the contrary, a general partnership can be dissolved at the will of any partner, and all of the partners share equally in the management and profits and losses of the business.

Each general partner is individually liable for the acts of the partnership or of any member of the partnership engaged in carrying out partnership business.

What is a Limited Partnership? A limited partnership is a special type of partnership created by statute, consisting of two classes of partners: one or more limited partners and one or more general partners.

A general partner in a limited partnership shares characteristics similar to those of a partner in a general partnership, including individual liability for the acts of the partnership or of any member of the partnership engaged in carrying out partnership business.

A limited partner is akin to a shareholder in a corporation, except that the limited partners have no inherent right to elect a board of directors. Limited partners are to have no day-to-day involvement in the management or operation of the business and are not generally liable for either the acts of the partnership or of the general partner. A limited partner does have certain rights to participate in certain limited decisions, such as the decision to liquidate and dissolve the partnership.

Under state law, and in the absence of any special provision to the contrary in the partnership agreement, a limited partnership cannot be dissolved without the unanimous consent of all of the partners.

What is a “Family” Limited Partnership (FLP)? A Family Limited Partnership (or FLP) is simply a limited partnership in which all or most of the partners are family members. This type of partnership is to be contrasted with a partnership between unrelated parties, in which control is likely to be a more important concern.

The arrangement is often structured so that senior family members transfer property to the FLP in exchange for a nominal general partnership interest (e.g., 1%) and a substantial limited partnership interest (e.g., 99%). A better approach might be for the initial capitalization to take place pro rata, with the junior family members making a contribution on their own, such that the limited and general partnership interests are initially owned in the same proportions by the junior and senior family members.

What Are Some of the More Common Key Provisions of an FLP? Often, the senior family members will own the majority of the general partnership interests and will act as managing partner(s). There may be estate planning reasons, however, where control may not be desired.

Usually, the general partner will be a corporation or Limited Liability Company (LLC).

If the general partner is not a corporation, there will usually be more than one general partner.

The partnership is usually for a fixed term of years.

No partner has the unilateral right to liquidate the partnership. This means that in order for the partnership to be dissolved before the end of its stated term, all partners must agree.

Partnership earnings may be retained by the partnership for reasonable business needs at the discretion of the managing partner.

General partners must approve the admittance of a new or substitute limited partner.

The partnership has the “right of first refusal” to purchase a transferring partner’s partnership interest.

Partnership interests cannot be pledged for debts.

What are Some of the Primary Gift and Estate Tax Considerations for Forming an FLP? The value of a limited partnership interest may be substantially less than the value of the underlying assets (30% or more), so long as no partner retains the unilateral right to dissolve the partnership. The reason is that the owner of the assets can convert them to cash at will, but the owner of a partnership interest is dependent upon the general partner to make distributions and upon all of the partners to consent to liquidation.

Thus, the key to the valuation discount is the limitation on the unilateral right to liquidate the enterprise. Achieving a discounted value on the assets can obviously result in reduced estate and gift taxes! However, under the tax laws, the existence of the limitations on liquidation will be ignored for purposes of arriving at the value of a partnership interest for gift or estate tax purposes, unless certain provisions are carefully followed.

If it is subsequently determined by the IRS that the discount should not have been applied for estate or gift tax purposes, then it is possible that, in addition to the increase in transfer taxes (which would probably have been owed anyway, had the partnership not been formed), penalties and interest on the unpaid tax (would not otherwise have been owed) may have to be paid.

Can the Gift Tax Advantages of an FLP be Obtained By Use of Other Forms of Business Entities?

The gift tax advantages of an FLP can be obtained by using other forms of business entities. For example, if non-voting stock in an S-Corporation was given away, a discount would be appropriate to reflect that the donee does not have liquidation control of the entity.

One of the perceived transfer tax advantages that an FLP has over other business entities is that the owner of a majority interest in an FLP (or the owner or operational control) will ordinarily not have liquidation control over the retained interest, because the consent of the minority interest owners is necessary in order to liquidate and thereby gain access to the economic value of the underlying assets. So, when the owner of a majority interest in an FLP dies, the majority interest might be entitled to a valuation discount for lack of control, even though the owner had operational control during lifetime. This is not generally true of other business entities.

However, gifts during lifetime of minority interests in other business entities do often enjoy the gift tax valuation benefits associated with the donee’s lack of liquidation control. This should not be overlooked. Further, if the donor is willing to part with liquidation control of a business other than an FLP, such that at death the owner lacks the ability to liquidate, the owner’s estate might be entitled to a valuation discount, even if the entity was a corporation. Under state law, absent special provision in the articles of incorporation, a two-thirds vote of all classes of stock, including otherwise non-voting stock, is necessary in order to liquidate a California Business Corporation.

What is the Easiest Way to Avoid the Special Rule Requiring that Liquidation Limitations Be Ignored For Estate and Gift Tax Valuation Purposes in a Limited Partnership?

Special estate and gift tax valuation rules under Chapter 14 of the Internal Revenue Code require that liquidation restrictions generally be ignored in valuing a family owned business for estate and gift tax purposes. But there are exceptions.

The special estate and gift tax valuation rules do not apply if there is a non-family member who is a partner!

The next best technique is to try to draft the partnership agreement so that is no more restrictive than state law would otherwise allow. In that case, the law indicates that we may consider liquidation restrictions in determining the value of the enterprise for estate and gift tax purposes. In the case of a limited partnership, state law requires unanimous consent to liquidate, absent a provision in the partnership agreement overriding state law on this point.

Can We Guaranty that the Special Tax Rules Will Not Apply to the Limited Partnership Agreement We Have or Will Prepare?


As explained above, there are special tax rules that ordinarily require that liquidation restrictions be ignored in valuing a partnership for transfer tax purposes. Although we have good reason to believe that the special estate and gift tax valuation rules do not apply to a limited partnership that follows the default state law unanimous consent rule (and that therefore, the value of a partnership interest for transfer tax purposes should take into account the fact that the partner cannot unilaterally cause the liquidation of the business), we cannot guaranty this result. It may be that the inherent power of the general partner to withdraw will invoke the application of the special estate and gift tax valuation rules, even if the partnership agreement takes this power away. We just do not know for sure yet.

Is there a Downside to Achieving an Estate Tax Valuation Discount?


Under present law, all of the assets in a decedent’s probate estate get a new basis under IRC §1014 equal to the full fair market value of the asset at date of death. This new basis applies to both halves of community property. If the property is discounted for estate tax purposes, it will also be discounted for basis purposes, and this could result in additional capital gains when the property is eventually sold. Sometimes having a higher estate tax value can actually be good, especially if the estate is either not large enough to be subject to tax, or pays little or no tax because of the marital or charitable deduction.

(In the case of a partnership, the change in basis will affect the partnership interest itself, but will not affect the basis of the property owned by the partnership unless certain elections are made.)

What Happens if the IRS Disagrees With the Valuation of the FLP for Estate or Gift Tax Purposes?

Obviously, if the IRS is successful in asserting that a valuation used on an estate or gift tax return was too low, additional transfer tax may be owed based upon the value as finally determined for estate and gift tax purposes. In addition, however, there are penalties for undervaluation that need to be considered, as this is an area where opinions as to values can vary widely.

Under IRC §6662(g), there “is a substantial estate or gift tax valuation understatement if the value of any property claimed on any [estate or gift tax] return . . . is 50 percent or less of the amount determined to be the correct amount of such valuation.” Under §6662(a) “there shall be added to the tax an amount equal to 20 percent of the portion of the underpayment to which this section applies.” The 20% figure is increased to 40% in the case of a “gross valuation misstatement.” A “gross valuation misstatement” is where the amount reported is 25% or less of the value as finally determined.

What Basis Will the Inter vivos Donee of a Limited Partnership Interest Take, and Can This Be Considered a Downside?

The donee of a lifetime gift (including a gift of an interest in an FLP) takes the basis that the donor (or the last preceding owner by whom it was not acquired by gift) had in the property at the time of transfer, except that if this carry-over basis is greater than the fair market value of the property at the time of the gift, then, for the purpose of determining loss, the basis will be the fair market value of the property on the date of the gift.

The value of a gift in an FLP might be discounted, perhaps below the donor’s original basis. In that case, if the property is sold for less than the donor’s original basis, loss will be recognized, if at all, only to the extent the amount realized is less than the fair market value of the partnership interest determined at the time of the gift, rather than by reference to the larger carry-over basis. If the fair market value of the interest at the time of the gift is more than the donor’s basis, this rule has no application at all.

What are Some of the Non Tax Reasons for Forming a Family Limited Partnership?

A Family Limited Partnership (an FLP) is a partnership between you and your family members designed to achieve or promote a number of business and estate planning purposes.

These objectives may include the following:

• provide resolution of any disputes which may arise among the Family in order to preserve family harmony and avoid the expense and problems of litigation;

• maintain control of Family Assets;

• consolidate fractional interests in Family Assets;

• increase Family wealth;

• establish a method by which annual gifts can be made without fractionalizing Family Assets;

• continue the ownership of Family Assets and restrict the right of non-Family to acquire interests in Family Assets;

• possibly provide limited protection to Family Assets from claims of future creditors against Family members;

• prevent the transfer of a Family member's interest in the Partnership as a result of a failed marriage;

• provide flexibility in business planning not available through trusts, corporations, or other business entities;

• facilitate the administration and reduce the cost associated with the disability or probate of the estate of Family members; and

• promote knowledge of and communication about Family Assets.

Entering into an FLP Agreement is a relatively sophisticated technique, which may or may not successfully achieve all of its intended purposes.

We strongly advise against forming an FLP principally for tax reduction reasons alone. The non-tax reasons are often sufficient to justify the use of an FLP, so that even if a transfer tax discount is not obtained, the formation of the FLP is still worthwhile.

Can Attorney and Accountant and Other Organization Fees be Amortized?

IRC §709 permits a partnership to amortize certain startup costs and organization fees over 60 months.

(b) Amortization of organization fees.

(1) Deduction.
Amounts paid or incurred to organize a partnership may, at the election of the partnership (made in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary), be treated as deferred expenses. Such deferred expenses shall be allowed as a deduction ratably over such period of not less than 60 months as may be selected by the partnership (beginning with the month in which the partnership begins business), or if the partnership is liquidated before the end of such 60-month period, such deferred expenses (to the extent not deducted under this section) may be deducted to the extent provided in section 165.

(2) Organizational expenses defined.
The organizational expenses to which paragraph (1) applies, are expenditures which –

(A) are incident to the creation of the partnership;

(B) are chargeable to capital account; and

(C) are of a character which, if expended incident to the creation of a partnership having an ascertainable life, would be amortized over such life.

What is a Fiduciary?

A fiduciary is a person or institution that is in a special relationship of trust and confidence with another person. Because of that relationship the fiduciary has a duty to treat that person with the utmost fairness in all dealings between them. A partner owes a fiduciary duty to the partnership and to each of the other partners. A trustee is in a fiduciary relationship to the trust and the beneficiaries of the trust, and as such owes them special duties. A person holding a power of attorney (the agent) owes a fiduciary duty to the person granting the power (the principal). These special duties are called “fiduciary duties.”

What is a Fiduciary Duty?

A fiduciary duty is the highest duty that the law recognizes. Some of the more important fiduciary duties include: the duty of confidentiality; the Does a Partner Owe Historically, a partner does owe a fiduciary duty to the other partners; however, the partnership agreement and some modern statutes ameliorate or dispense with this duty in some contexts, by replacing it with a duty of care and loyalty.

Is it Important to Correctly Value Property that is Contributed to a Limited Partnership?


Placing the correct value on property contributed to a limited partnership is critical for a number of reasons. For this reason, I recommend that you obtain a written appraisal from a qualified independent appraiser before contributing property other than cash and marketable securities to the partnership.

Should There be More than One General Partner?

Yes, unless the general partner is a corporation. Since the death of an individual general partner could cause the partnership to dissolve under state law (unless reconstituted at the election of the remaining partners), we feel that there should be more than one, unless the general partner is a corporation.

Can a Corporation, Limited Liability Company or Trust act as General Partner?

Yes, and there are advantages in doing just that. However, it does complicate things, and care must be taken to avoid having this cause the partnership to be taxed as if it were a corporation.

Does the Partnership Have to File a Partnership Tax Return?

Yes, but the income and losses are taxed to the partners, whether or not the partnership actually distributes anything.

Can a Partner’s Creditors Reach his Interest in a Limited Partnership?

Outside of bankruptcy, the exclusive remedy of a judgment creditor of a partner in a California Limited Partnership is to obtain a “charging order.” This means that, as a general rule, the creditor cannot reach the underlying assets of the partnership prior to its dissolution, but does receive the share of any distributions that would otherwise be made to the partner.

Is a General Partner Liable For the Debts of the Partnership?

A general partner is personally liable for all debts of the partnership.

Is a Limited Partner Liable For the Debts of the Partnership?

As a rule, a limited partner is not personally liable for the debts of the partnership. This insulation from liability can be lost if the limited partner is active in the business, or misleads others into believing that the limited partner is a general partner.

Should a Person Transfer Property to a Limited Partnership at a Time When the Partner is Aware of a Significant Creditor Claim that Would be Prejudiced by the Transfer?


What Minimum Interest Should Be Maintained By the General Partner(s)?

It could be important to see to it that the minimum interest of the general partner(s) equal at least 1% in each material item of partnership income, gain, loss, deduction or credit at all times during the term of the partnership. The general partner ought also to have and maintain a minimum capital account balance of 1% of the total positive capital account balances of the partnership.

If additional capital contributions are made by limited partners, then the general partners must make additional capital contributions to satisfy the 1% requirement. However, if an individual is both a general and a limited partner, his general and limited partner capital accounts can be aggregated to meet the 1% requirement.

How is Income Allocated and How Are Losses Shared?

As a general rule, income and losses are shared relative to ownership or capital accounts, but this is not necessarily true. The partnership agreement has to be carefully consulted on this point. It is important to recognize that income and losses for income tax purposes have very little relationship to what is actually distributed or not, and it is common to owe taxes on phantom partnership income that you never see. As a rule, a majority of the general partners (either in interest or in numbers depending on the terms of the partnership agreement) make decisions regarding distributions.

Are There Special Tax Rules that Apply Only to Family Partnerships?   


Under IRC §704(e)—(i) the services rendered to the partnership by a donor must be adequately compensated, and (ii) in the event a transfer of a family partnership interest that has been funded with donated capital, the donor and donee should receive income from the partnership allocable to those interests in proportion to the contributed capital.

Are There Any Special Tax Elections that Should Be Considered?   


Under IRC §754, a tax election can be made by a partnership to adjust the tax basis of assets inside the partnership to reflect changes in the tax basis of partnership interests occurring outside the partnership. The §754 election can be very valuable to the transferee of a partner in that it enables him to step-up the “inside basis” of partnership assets attributable, for example, to his purchase price of the transferred interest.

In What State Should a Family Limited Partnership be Formed?

Some people prefer Nevada, Arizona, Delaware or Georgia as their choice for a situs of an FLP, for various reasons. At the present time, California imposes a $800 a year franchise tax on FLPs, but if that should change, then a change in situs for a FLP in this state might be worth considering.

Does a Limited Partnership Have to Pay Franchise Taxes?

Whether or not an FLP is subject to franchise taxes depends on where partnership property is located and on the situs of the FLP.

What Assets Should NOT Be Transferred to a Family Limited Partnership?

For various reasons, I recommend that the following types of assets NOT be transferred to an FLP.

• Benefits From Qualified Retirement Plans and IRAs. A transfer of retirement plan or IRA benefits to an FLP would be a prohibited transaction under the law.

• S-Corporation stock. Under IRC §1361, a limited partnership is not authorized to hold S-corporation stock.

• Some Mortgaged or Heavily Encumbered Property. If an asset subject to a lien is transferred to a partnership, care must be taken to analyze whether the transfer results in gain recognition for tax purposes at the time of transfer or upon the admission of a new partner.

• Operating Businesses That Have a High Potential for Tort or Contract Liability. These types of assets should probably be owned by a corporation or limited liability company, rather than by a partnership, because the shareholder of a corporation is not generally liable for corporate obligations, but a general partner is always liable for the liabilities of a partnership.

Are There Any Special Considerations In the Case of Real Estate Contributed to a Partnership?

In some states the family homestead exemption could be lost if the homestead were transferred to a limited partnership. Also, title insurance protection could be lost. A special rider or endorsement can usually be provided by the title insurance company to prevent this happening, so you should always check into this before transferring real estate if there is the remotest question about the title.

Since real estate is often encumbered by a mortgage, you should make sure that the transfer will not transfer a “due on sale” clause in the deed of trust. Finally, if the debt on the property exceeds basis, there could be recognition of income in some cases.

What Investment Assets Should Be Considered For Contribution To an FLP?

The following assets should be considered for contribution to an FLP.

• Non-homestead Real Estate (if not encumbered).

• Oil and Gas Properties. Transfers of proven properties to an FLP should not result in the loss of the right to claim percentage depletion under IRC §613A(c)(7)(D). However, passive losses arising from oil and gas working interests owned by an FLP present special problems for limited partners. See Treas. Reg. §1.146-1T(e)(4).

• Marketable Securities. However, care must be taken not to run afoul of the “investment company” rules.

• Cash and Cash Equivalents.

• Investment Assets of a Family Trust.

• Plant and Equipment Leased to an Operating Entity.

• Farm and Ranch Land.

Should I Revise My Financial Statements After Contributing Property to an FLP?  


Will I Recognize Taxable Gain By Transferring Property to an FLP?

As a general rule, IRC §721(a) provides that there is no gain or loss to the partnership or to any partner on the transfer of property to an FLP in exchange for an interest in the partnership. There are some important exceptions to the non-recognition rule.

What is the Investment Company Exception to the Non-recognition Rule?

There is an “investment company” exception to this rule. This rule was broadened by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, by amending IRC §351(e)(1). Under IRC §721(b) the contributor of property to the FLP will recognize gain if the partnership would have been treated as an investment company under §351 if it were a corporation.

As a general rule, a corporation will be treated as an investment company if, after the transfer, more than 80% in value of the assets (with some exceptions) are stock or securities, interests in Regulated Investment Companies, Real Estate Investment Trusts, money, foreign currency, precious metals, or other assets described in 351(e)(1)(B) or the regulations.

What Happens If the Partnership is Classified as an Investment Company Under the Rules, But There is No Diversification?

The fact that the partnership would technically be classified as an investment company is only one of two conditions that must be met before gain will be recognized on transfer. In order for gain to be recognized on transfer to a partnership, the transfer must also result in diversification. The regulations provide:

(1) . . . A transfer of property after June 30, 1967, will be considered to be a transfer to an investment company if —

(i) The transfer results, directly or indirectly, in diversification of the transferors' interests, and . . . .

Can Diversification Be Avoided by Transferring Identical Assets? Under Reg. §1.351-1(c)(5), diversification exists if two or more persons transfer non-identical assets to the partnership, unless they constitute an insignificant portion of the total assets transferred. “If there is only one transferor (or two or more transferors of identical assets) to a newly organized corporation, the transfer will generally be treated as not resulting in diversification.” Accordingly, diversification should never result (and §721(b) should not apply) when the sole partners are a husband and wife and the contributed property is community property or identical separate property created by partition.

Is There a De Minimus Exception to the Diversification Test?

[I]f any transaction involves one or more transfers of non-identical assets which, taken in the aggregate, constitute an insignificant portion of the total value of assets transferred, such transfers shall be disregarded in determining whether diversification has occurred.

Unfortunately, the regulations do not tell us what an insignificant portion is, but the private letter rulings suggest that it is 1% or less.

At What Point in Time Are the Investment Company Rules Applied?

The determination of whether a corporation is an investment company shall ordinarily be made by reference to the circumstances in existence immediately after the transfer in question. However, where circumstances change thereafter pursuant to a plan in existence at the time of the transfer, this determination shall be made by reference to the later circumstances.

If a transfer is part of a plan to achieve diversification without recognition of gain, such as a plan which contemplates a subsequent transfer, however delayed, of the corporate assets (or of the stock or securities received in the earlier exchange) to an investment company in a transaction purporting to qualify for non-recognition treatment, the original transfer will be treated as resulting in diversification.

Is There a Mathematical Safe Harbor?

Under private letter rulings, and relatively recent amendments to the regulations, the IRS has liberalized the diversification requirements, holding that “investment company” exception will not result in gain recognition if (a) each transfer transfers a portfolio of which (a) not more than 25% of its assets are the securities of one company, and (b) no more than half of the assets are held in securities of five (or fewer) issuers.

Apparently, the composition of the partnership assets is irrelevant, unless IRC §368(a)(2)(F) is somehow also directly applicable, instead of being merely the test to be applied to the partners individually, and this does not appear to be the case.

As an example of how this rule might operate, if a portfolio consisted of stocks in 11 different companies, and each group of stock all had the same value, both the 25% and the 50% tests would be satisfied.

Stated another way, no one stock constitutes more than 25% of the portfolio, and there is no group of 5 stocks making up 50% of the portfolio.

Specifically, Treas. Reg. §1.351-1(c)(6)(i) provides:

(i) For purposes of paragraph (c)(5) of this section, a transfer of stocks and securities will not be treated as resulting in a diversification of the transferors' interests if each transferor transfers a diversified portfolio of stocks and securities. For purposes of this paragraph (c)(6), a portfolio of stocks and securities is diversified if it satisfies the 25 and 50-percent tests of section 368(a)(2)(F)(ii), applying the relevant provisions of section 368(a)(2)(F). However, Government securities are included in total assets for purposes of the denominator of the 25 and 50-percent tests (unless the Government securities are acquired to meet the 25 and 50-percent tests), but are not treated as securities of an issuer for purposes of the numerator of the 25 and 50-percent tests.

And IRC §368(a)(2)(F) provides:

(ii) A corporation meets the requirements of this clause if not more than 25 percent of the value of its total assets is invested in the stock and securities of any one issuer and not more than 50 percent of the value of its total assets is invested in the stock and securities of 5 or fewer issuers. For purposes of this clause, all members of a controlled group of corporations (within the meaning of section 1563(a)) shall be treated as one issuer. For purposes of this clause, a person holding stock in a regulated investment company, a real estate investment trust, or an investment company which meets the requirements of this clause shall, except as provided in regulations, be treated as holding its proportionate share of the assets held by such company or trust.

The regulations give these examples:

(7) The application of subparagraph (5) of this paragraph may be illustrated as follows:

Example (1). Individuals A, B, and C organize a corporation with 101 shares of common stock. A and B each transfers to it $10,000 worth of the only class of stock of corporation X, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, in exchange for 50 shares of stock. C transfers $200 worth of readily marketable securities in corporation Y for one share of stock. In determining whether or not diversification has occurred, C's participation in the transaction will be disregarded. There is, therefore, no diversification, and gain or loss will not be recognized.

Example (2). A, together with 50 other transferors, organizes a corporation with 100 shares of stock. A transfers $10,000 worth of stock in corporation X, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, in exchange for 50 shares of stock. Each of the other 50 transferors transfers $200 worth of readily marketable securities in corporations other than X in exchange for one share of stock. In determining whether or not diversification has occurred, all transfers will be taken into account. Therefore, diversification is present, and gain or loss will be recognized.

The preamble to the proposed version of the regulations indicates the rationale of the IRS:

The Service wants to clarify that §1.351-1(c)(5) does not prevent tax-free combinations of already diversified portfolios, and that combinations of already diversified portfolios are not inconsistent with the purposes of section 351(e) (i.e., preventing the tax-free transfer of one or a few stocks or securities to swap funds).

If the Partnership Owns a Holding Company, Does a “Look-Through” Rule Apply?

In making the determination required under subparagraph (1)(ii)(c) of this paragraph, stock and securities in subsidiary corporations shall be disregarded and the parent corporation shall be deemed to own its ratable share of its subsidiaries' assets. A corporation shall be considered a subsidiary if the parent owns 50 percent or more of (i) the combined voting power of all classes of stock entitled to vote, or (ii) the total value of shares of all classes of stock outstanding.

In addition to the rule just described in the regulations, the 1997 change to 351 now provides that an entity will be treated as owning the assets of any other entity “if substantially all of the assets of such entity consist (directly or indirectly) of any assets described in any preceding clause or clause [i.e., investment assets on the list].” This last provision is limited by an ” except as otherwise provided in regulations” clause.

Can the Partnership Agreement Be Drafted to Automatically Avoid Diversification?

It may be that a partnership agreement can be drafted to preclude the possibility of diversification in operation. For example, diversification would appear to be precluded if (1) each partner is allocated all of the income, gains and losses from the property that partner contributed and (2) that if the partner withdraws the partner will receive the property back (if it is still owned by the partnership).

However, this may create a separate class of partnership interest under IRC §2701, and for this reason, and perhaps others, this technique is not advocated.

Is There an Exception if One of the Partners is Not a U.S. Citizen?

IRC §721(C) provides: “The Secretary may provide by regulations that subsection (a) shall not apply to gain realized on the transfer of property to a partnership if such gain, when recognized, will be includible in the gross income of a person other than a United States person.”

What Other Notable Exceptions to the Non-recognition Rule Are There?

There are other exceptions to the non-recognition rules—

• Gain also arises if encumbered property is contributed on which debt exceeds basis. The gain is generally equal to the amount that the debt exceeds your basis in the property, less your share of the debt under the partnership agreement.

• Under the disguised sale rules, gain arises if the value of appreciated property that is distributed to a partner exceeds the partner’s adjusted basis in the partnership, if the distribution is made within five years of the date the property was contributed.

• Gain arises when a new partner is admitted and debt is shifted in excess of basis. Under IRC §752, gain will be recognized by existing partners when a new partner is admitted if the admission results in a shift of partnership liabilities away from the existing partners in an amount in excess of the basis for the partnership interests of the existing partners. A decrease in liabilities is treated the same as a distribution of money.

• Gain may arise if a new partner is admitted and appreciated inventory exists.

• Gain may arise if a corporate partner contributes appreciated assets in certain instances.

• Gain may arise in the future if the “disguised sale” rules apply. These rules can apply in two instances.

Under IRC §704(c)(1)(B), if within five years of a Under §707(a)(2), if within two years of a partner’s transfer of property into the partnership, the partnership transfers to the transferor money or other property which, in essence, is consideration for the transfer, a presumed sale has occurred unless it is clearly established that there was not a sale.

Is a Limited Partner’s Income and Loss Considered “Passive” Under the Passive Loss Rules?


In a general partnership, each partner is subject to the potential application of the passive loss rules of IRC §469. The primary criteria is whether or not the partner materially participates in the operations on a regular, continuous and substantial basis.

In a limited partnership, the application of §469(h) results in a limited partner being automatically considered passive. Section 469(h)(2) provides that “no interest in a limited partnership as a limited partner shall be treated as an interest with respect to which a taxpayer materially participates” except to the extent Regulations provide otherwise.

If a person is both a general partner and a limited partner during an entire year, the limited partnership interest will be re-characterized as a non-limited interest.

It should be noted that participation in an oil and gas limited partnership as a limited partner will override the statutory presumption of active activity for working interests in oil and gas properties. IRC §469(c)(3)(A).

What is the Filing Fee to File Articles of Limited Partnership?

At the present time the filing fee required to be paid to the Secretary of State of California is $70; Arizona is $13; Nevada is $125; and Texas' filing the certificate and articles of limited partnership is $750.

Can I Deduct the Expenses of Organizing a Limited Partnership?

For federal income tax purposes, at the election of the partnership, organization expenses of the partnership may be treated as deferred expenses and deducted over a period of 60 months. Regulations point out that organization fees include legal fees for the negotiation and preparation of the partnership agreement, accounting fees for services incident to organization and certain filing fees; but organization fees do not include expenses connected with acquiring assets for the partnership or transferring assets to it. If the appropriate election is not made, the organization expenses must be capitalized.

Legal fees are deductible over a 5-year period as an expense of creating the partnership, as suggested above; or, may perhaps be deductible immediately under IRC §212, if the fees are for services described in §212, subject to the rule limiting such deductions to the excess of 2% of adjusted gross income for the year.

Is An Annual Gift Tax Exclusion Available For the Transfer of a Limited Partnership Interest?

Under IRC §2503(b) everyone can transfer to everyone else $11,000 per year ($11,000 per year per donor per donee). Unfortunately, the statute requires that the interest transferred must be a “present interest.” A check for $11,000 delivered to a donee would qualify, as would a gift of $11,000 worth of marketable securities. A gift in trust ordinarily will not qualify, unless the donee has the right to withdraw the gift from the trust or will receive the trust corpus at age 21.

At times, the IRS has informally allowed an annual exclusion for a gift of a limited partnership interest. At other times the IRS has maintained that a gift of a limited partnership interest that is not freely transferable is not a gift of a present interest, and does not qualify for the $11,000 gift tax annual exclusion.

As things now stand, anyone transferring limited partnership interests must assume the risk that the gift might not qualify for the gift tax annual exclusion!

Does A Partner Make a Gift at the Formation of the Partnership if the Fair Market Value of the Partnership Interest is Worth Less than the Property Transferred in Exchange For the Interest?

The IRS has argued that there is a gift at the formation of the partnership if the fair market value of the partnership interest is worth less than the property transferred in exchange for the interest; however, this position is arguably contrary to the IRS’ own regulations and case law. Again, this a risk that you must assume if applicable.

             Download our intensive "Introduction To Limited Partnerships":   PDF format |

             Download an "Arizona LP Application w/ SS-4" document:              PDF format |

             Download a "California LP Application w/ SS-4" document:            PDF format |

             Download a "Nevada LP Application ONLY" document:                 PDF format |

             Download an "IRS SS-4 Form w/ Instructions" document:               PDF format |

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C. Francis Baldwin
Updated Wednesday, May 26, 2004