David G. Mayer

  • NAFA Administrator posted an article
    AINsight: 5 Incentives To Finance Business Aircraft see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, shares five important incentives when financing your next business jet.

    The business aviation industry has encountered intense downdrafts this year connected to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ironically, the same forces have increased certain charter flights, spurred newcomer acquisitions of whole and fractional shares in aircraft, and highlighted the value of business aviation.

    Concurrently, the August 27 issue of JetNet iQ Pulse revealed significant untapped interest in borrowing or leasing (financing) to make aircraft acquisitions, stating: “Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and amongst respondents with an opinion, about two-thirds indicate that they plan to use some sort of financing to acquire their next new aircraft.”

    Understanding Today’s Aircraft Finance Markets 

    A few brief insights into the two dominant types of aircraft financing, “true leases” and secured loans, will help understand the interest in financing jet aircraft in a market typically dominated by cash purchases.

    A true aircraft lease is a transfer by an owner/lessor of the right to possession and use of the aircraft to a lessee for a lease term in return for rent and other consideration/value. In a true lease, the lessor provides 100 percent financing by purchasing the aircraft and leasing it to the lessee.

    Lessors expect the lessee to return the aircraft to the lessor at lease expiration, buy it during or at the end of the lease term, or renew the lease. Lessees enjoy the corresponding rights to drop off the aircraft to the lessor and walk away (after meeting the aircraft return conditions), purchasing the aircraft, and renewing the lease.

    A typical aircraft secured loan requires a borrower to grant a “security interest”– a lien –on an aircraft to the lender/secured party to secure the borrower’s payment or performance obligations under the loan documents. A lender does not own the aircraft; it just has an interest in the aircraft as collateral.

    Customers typically borrow between 50 percent and 80 percent of the price of the aircraft and make up the difference with the customers’ cash or, for refinancing, the value of the equity in the aircraft. These percentages fluctuate up or down for different lenders and loan structures, with a relatively few lenders advancing up to 100 percent loan to the value of the aircraft agreeing to a term of up to 20-years.

    Five Incentives To Finance Business Jets      

    Most customers in the U.S. have at least five incentives to finance their next (or first) aircraft:

    • Cheap money. The Federal Reserve (FR) recently announced a policy shift that the FR will average inflation rates to allow about a 2 percent inflation rate before increasing interest rates to tame the inflation. The FRprojects that interest rates will remain near zero for years to come. Financiers should, for the foreseeable future, offer customers very low rates consistent with the FR action.

    • No to low cash outlay. Many potential customers should readily appreciate that, rather than stroking a check for a new or used jet, they can more prudently or profitably use their cash elsewhere in their businesses for capital expenditures, investments, or, particularly during the pandemic, working capital.

    • Tax write-offs. If the lessor adheres to applicable federal tax law, including the lessor’s maintenance of residual value under the federal true lease guidelines, the lessor may be entitled to claim bonus depreciation on the new or used leased aircraft per the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

    In a loan transaction, the borrower, as the owner, may be entitled to bonus depreciation of the aircraft and other tax write-offs allowed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act plus bonus depreciation despite some personal use of the aircraft.

    • Lessor/lender competition. Most aircraft lenders and lessors compete aggressively on interest rates or lease economics to win business to the extent consistent with their respective business models, regulatory constraints, and internal credit policies. However, financiers will, except for the most creditworthy customers, expect customers to sign documentation that contains strong covenants, defaults, and other restrictive terms on aircraft and business operations.

    • Customized lease and loan structures. Structuring lease and loans constitute an integral part of competition among financiers. To facilitate planning and cost management of aircraft operations, a lessor can, within tax and other limits, create flexible structures that contain fixed and variable rents, options to purchase the aircraft during the lease term or at lease expiration, terminate the lease during the lease term or renew the lease term at lease expiration.

    Lenders can offer various loan structures that drive down periodic loan payments and achieve other customer goals. These loans might include a payment term of five to 12 years, asset-based financing (that primarily relies on aircraft value for re-payment), one large “balloon” or total principal payment at the end of the loan term, 10- to 20-year amortization periods, interest-only structures, and limited personal guarantees. Borrowers should negotiate early payoff rights so they can, at will, exit the relationship, refinance the aircraft loan, or use available cash to pay off the loan.

    Conclusion

    Though cash is king for many aircraft buyers, up to 70 percent of potential business aircraft owners or operators intend to finance the acquisition of their next new aircraft. The same should roughly be true for anyone interested in acquiring a used aircraft.

    Such financing can afford these potential customers cheap interest/rent rates, no or low cash use, and an immediate opportunity to buy or lease aircraft. For the business aviation industry, any boost in transaction volume this year, prompted by an expansion of financing, would be most welcome and perhaps generate a little optimism for a better 2021.

    This article was originally published in AINonline on September 11, 2020.

  • NAFA Administrator posted an article
    AINsight: Best Five Options To Fly Privately see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, shares the best options to fly privately. 

    As commercial airlines attempt to fill seats amid the Covid-19 pandemic, some families, businesses, and individuals have made a flight to safety by traveling again or for the first time on private aircraft.

    These travelers set their schedules and itineraries for on-demand business or personal flights. They can travel to about 5,300 public-use airports in the U.S., roughly 10 times the number of airports available to commercial aircraft. International airport access expands the flexibility to travel globally. Travelers greatly value saving travel time, the healthy and safe environment, productivity, and convenience of private aircraft while enjoying a comfortable, interconnected, and protected flight experience.

    Although the reasons to fly privately may be obvious, especially in the age of Covid-19, deciding on the right providers and approaches to flying are more complex. Three modes of aircraft travel involve no capital investment: chartering, jet or fraction cards, and membership programs. Each of these options holds strong attributes for new and some repeat flyers. Two other options require capital outlays for frequent flyers: purchasing a whole aircraft or a fractional share of an aircraft.

    Before All Else

    Before making choices from the five types of private aircraft travel described below, each person should complete the following diligence and processes to select the best possible flight experience:

    • Aircraft supports the mission. Identify the right aircraft for your “mission”—industry lingo that refers to identifying the details of a trip. In general, a mission profile covers logistics, operating hours, amenities, connectivity, catering, luggage/storage capacity, number of passengers, and travel distance. One size aircraft might not fit all travel needs, especially for owners or lessees that have access to only one aircraft.

    • Stellar manager, operator, and pilot safety records. Insist that the commercial operator, aircraft manager, and pilots have stellar safety records. The commercial operator should supply a top-flight team, including experienced pilots approved by the operator’s insurer. Managers, operators, and pilots should be free of enforcement actions by, or violation notices from, the FAA. Ask them.

    • Aircraft in good condition. Confirm whether the aircraft complies with its manufacturer’s maintenance and regulatory requirements. The aircraft should also present a well-maintained physical appearance.

    • Robust Covid-19 protocols. Verify that the aircraft manager, commercial operator, and FBO have designed and implemented a robust Covid-19 safety protocol for ground personnel, passengers, and crew, including health screening, social distancing, and personal protective equipment.

    • Adequate insurance coverage. Require that the aircraft manager or commercial operator provide written evidence of comprehensive liability insurance to protect you despite the tightening insurance markets.

    • Aviation experts. Use business aviation experts, including various brokers, technical consultants, and aviation lawyers, to assist in evaluating, documenting, and closing the best option or options for you.

    Chartering Aircraft

    charter is simply an ad hoc transportation service by private aircraft by the seat or whole aircraft. Charter makes the most sense for occasional and new flyers including those seeking a healthy and safe aircraft travel environment during the pandemic. Although more complicated, a charter is like taking a taxi. In legal terms, charter operators engage in air commerce by carrying persons or property for compensation or hire. You can hire a charter service in most cities with a private or public-use airport.

    Perhaps the simplest question about a charter and other options is what kind of aircraft does the traveler need to satisfy his or her top travel priorities? And how much will she or he spend to travel on a private aircraft? Charter rates can easily climb from approximately $1,200 to $12,000 per hour or more, depending on the aircraft selected from light jet or turboprop to an ultra-long-range jet.

    Though charter rates are not inexpensive, charters are somewhat more affordable because charter rates have dropped since 2019. Also, Congress approved, among other tax benefits, an excise tax holiday in the CARES Act, which suspends the 7.5 percent flight excise tax on amounts paid to charter operators from March 28, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020.

    Cost transparency is sometimes challenging in the charter world. Travelers should ask for receipts detailing charges on their accounts, watch for overlapping charges, and tie the charges to final invoices. It is advisable to compare operator fleet sizes and business models.

    One persistent legal and safety concern arises from illegal charter operations. Broadly speaking, illegal charters occur when the aircraft operator or pilot conducts charter operations without proper certification or fails to comply with strict safety requirements in applicable regulations. Illegal charters have ensnared frequent and occasional charter travelers.

    Customers should look for red flags such as an operator asking customers to sign short-term leases or timesharing agreements. As a result of these regulatory violations, the FAA has, in coordination with the business aviation industry, stepped up its enforcement actions against operators and warned pilots to shun illegal charter operations.

    Membership Programs

    Fee-paying members typically have access to private aircraft for a set number of hours that may range from 25 to 100 hours per year. Program terms, aircraft fleets, and quality vary widely as does pricing for membership and flights. Before joining, travelers should compare programs of operators that have developed creative ways to travel at a predictable cost.

    Jet and Fraction Cards

    Jet and fraction cards cost more than most other aircraft travel options and work like a pre-paid credit card that a traveler uses to pay for 25 to 100 or more flight hours. The cards enable travelers to dip a toe into private aviation. Card amounts vary, starting as low as $25,000 and perhaps lower in this changing segment. These cards and other options can provide supplemental lift to enhance travel flexibility.

    Whole Aircraft Ownership or Leasing

    Buying or leasing a “whole” aircraft often makes sense once a traveler anticipates using at least 200 flight hours per year and wants to control the use, customization, operational control, repair facilities, crewing, base location, and availability of the aircraft. However, many of my clients acquire aircraft knowing they will need fewer hours but also expecting to charter the aircraft to others to offset fixed costs.

    At the outset of deciding whether to buy a whole aircraft, businesses should determine whether bonus depreciation and other tax benefits may be available and structured to reduce their after-tax cost of ownership and operations. Financing is widely available for whole aircraft at historically low rates. It is important to use aviation experts here as purchase, sale, financing, or leasing transactions are often complex.

    Fractional Share Ownership

    Simpler than owning or leasing a whole aircraft, an owner or lessee of an aircraft fractional share typically commits to a five-year program. A fraction typically corresponds to a certain number of annual flight hours, often ranging from 25 to 300 hours, though some programs instead use number of travel days instead of flight hours. Fractional programs charge monthly management and per-hour flight fees, differ in quality, and provide highly personalized service. Bonus depreciation and/or other federal tax benefits might be available like whole aircraft. A few banks will lease or finance a fractional share.

    Conclusion

    To mitigate Covid-19 infection risk, some families, businesses, and individuals have abandoned commercial aircraft travel for on-demand travel in private aircraft. The five best options for such private aircraft flights consist of charter services, membership programs, and jet or fraction cards, along with purchasing or leasing whole or fractional shares of these aircraft.

    Covid-19 has boosted demand to fly by private aircraft, especially charter services. Perhaps this demand foretells a new era of sustainable growth in private aircraft travel as people realize that these flights not only save time but might also save lives.

    Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to convey, and does not convey, legal or other advice. Each person should consult his or her advisors to make decisions about flying privately, as well as any legal or economic implications, risks, or terms in connection with any such decision.

    This article was originally published by AINonline on July 17, 2020.

  • NAFA Administrator posted an article
    How To Shield Bizjet Owners from Virus Claims see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses ways for bizjet owners to mitigate risk of COVID-19-related claims.

    The sudden onslaught of the contagious and deadly Covid-19 pandemic delivered a severe blow to business aviation’s global flight activity and paused (but did not derail) preowned business jet retail sale and lease transactions. The pandemic has already changed so much in our lives that, for now, no one can envision what a “new normal” will look like for business aviation.

    Regardless of what happens, today, as governments ease shelter at home restrictions, business aircraft owners and lessees, along with their managers and Part 135 operators (together, owners), face an imperative to protect anyone from Covid-19 who might come in physical contact with, or travel on, the operator’s business aircraft.

    These people include owners and their families, other passengers, crew, independent contractors, employees, and ground support personnel (together, affected individuals). The imperative applies both to Part 91 and 135 operations. If owners do not meet this obligation head-on, it seems inevitable that affected individuals will make negligence claims against owners for exposure to, and illness or death from, Covid-19.

    THREE WAYS TO MITIGATE RISK OF COVID-19-RELATED CLAIMS

    Owners should use this period of slower flight and market activity to take the following three actions that might limit the chances for affected individuals to contract Covid-19 and blunt any incentive to make damage claims against owners for their alleged negligence:

    First, develop comprehensive business aircraft protocols for each business aircraft to create a healthy and safe environment inside of, and close to, the aircraft.

    Second, request Covid-19 waivers and indemnities from affected individuals to mitigate the risk of Covid-19-related liability claims based on negligence or other legal theories.

    Finally, confirm whether the owner carries, or the owner can buy, liability insurance coverage that will respond to such liability claims.

    Covid-19 Negligence Explained

    As a general legal principle, business aircraft owners may be negligent and liable for money damages if the owner breaches its duty of reasonable care to maintain a safe and healthy environment for affected individuals inside of, or close to, their aircraft.

    Broadly speaking, the duty occurs because an owner can reasonably foresee that Covid-19 might live in and on business aircraft, be transmitted inside or close to the aircraft by one person to another, or from personal items such as luggage to an affected individual. If negligence is proven, a judge or jury can then award significant money damages in favor of the affected individual or his/her estate.

    Importantly, the affected individual who contracts Covid-19 must prove that the breach of the owner’s duty of reasonable care is the “proximate cause” of the Covid-19 illness or death. That is, the affected individual must provide evidence of an almost indisputable connection between his or her Covid-19 condition and the exposure to Covid-19 inside of, or close to, the business aircraft.

    As such, causation is likely to be the most difficult element to prove, especially given the challenges in tracing from the affected individual to the aircraft environment as the only possible source of the affected individual’s infection. However, no owner should rely on the difficulty of proving causation as an excuse to ignore safeguards and fail to develop a high-quality aircraft protocol.

    DEVELOPING A COVID-19 AIRCRAFT PROTOCOL 

    As noted above, owners can, and immediately should, develop and enforce a comprehensive protocol designed to protect any affected individual who is inside of, or might come in physical contact with, a business aircraft, its cargo, and any other affected individual. A protocol, in this context, refers to written standards, practices, and behaviors established by owners to ensure that the environment inside of, and close to, their business aircraft is free of the Covid-19 infection.

    Although important, cleaning and disinfecting an aircraft by itself does not constitute an aircraft protocol. Owners should include many other elements in a protocol such as screening each affected individual, safely bag or wrap potentially infected luggage, test passengers for Covid-19 before the flight, and provide each passenger with personal hygiene supplies and masks that must be used inside the aircraft.

    To help them meticulously design and write, as well as implement and update, a Covid-19 health and safety protocol, owners should hire appropriate medical, cleaning, and safety experts to contribute relevant parts of, and comment on, the entire protocol. Some managers and Part 135 operators have already taken steps to create all or part of a protocol or a rough equivalent, which is positive.

    Further, owners should conduct periodic audits to confirm strict compliance with the protocols. They should also retain records on, and immediately rectify any shortfalls from, the protocol implementation such as recording dates and times of disinfecting in and around an aircraft. These steps might entail some additional effort, but they should help mount a good defense to negligence claims.

    In all situations, owners and affected individuals should limit travel with operators that have not developed and comply with a protocol on every flight. After all, only one mistake or negligent act or omission can lead to tragic consequences involving Covid-19.

    COVID-19 RESOURCES TO CREATE A PROTOCOL

    In writing and updating the protocols, owners, experts, and their lawyers should study pertinent information from, among others, the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, FAA, EBAA, and NATA. Notably, NBAA recently published a comprehensive resource that owners can use as the foundation of a quality aircraft protocol.

    Aircraft manufacturers should be able and willing to provide consulting services and aircraft products, including fresh air intake and filtering systems, to mitigate safety risks and negligence claims.

    LIABILITY INSURANCE COVERAGE TO MINIMIZE PAYOUTS FROMCOVID-19 CLAIMS

    Liability insurance might cover Covid-19 negligence claims relating to business aircraft. Owners and their aviation insurance experts or lawyers should examine the wording in their liability insurance policies to determine whether any coverage exists against these claims. Some, but not all policies, contain explicit exclusions for viruses, which means Covid-19 claims might not be covered.

    Prospects to buy such insurance now are dismal, but large accounts might have a shot. If there is potential coverage, the insurer might have a “duty to defend” the insured, at the insurer’s expense, and therefore engage counsel to defend the insured against the Covid-19 claims.

    WAIVERS AND INDEMNITIES TO LIMIT IMPACT OF COVID-19 CLAIMS

    Each owner should ask any affected individual, before a flight, for a written, signed waiver of claims for Covid-19 illness or death. Separately, managers and Part 135 operators might consider asking for waivers and indemnities from owners for damages to furniture and hard surfaces in the aircraft allegedly caused by disinfecting chemicals used in or on the aircraft to rid the areas of Covid-19. Courts generally enforce properly drafted waivers and indemnities, but applicable laws might alter this outcome.

    CONCLUSION

    Covid-19 affects all of us in different ways. In business aviation, it seems urgent that, as governments lift stay-at-home restrictions, owners develop and implement comprehensive Covid-19 health and safety protocols for their business aircraft, secure waivers, and indemnities and maintain appropriate liability insurance.

    Properly structured, a protocol can protect the lives of business aircraft owners and their families, crews, independent contractors, employees, and ground support personnel from illness and death caused by Covid-19. Protocols can boost confidence in traveling by business aircraft and mitigate the risk of complex, expensive, and lengthy liability lawsuits against the business aircraft owners, managers, and Part 135 operators.

    The right choice seems obvious, but the end of this healthcare crisis and recovery of business aviation remains far from certain.

    Author note: “This blog is not intended to create or constitute, nor does it create or constitute, an attorney-client or any other legal relationship. No statement in this communication constitutes legal advice nor should any communication herein be construed, relied upon, or interpreted as legal advice. This communication is for general information purposes only regarding recent legal developments of interest, and is not a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included herein without seeking appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances affecting that reader.”

    This article was originally published by AINonline on May 15, 2020.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Limiting Risk as Liability Insurance Tightens see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, shares what you need to know about liability insurance.

    If you think you can call your insurance broker and secure aircraft insurance just days before you close an aircraft purchase or renew liability coverage, think again. Insurance companies have changed the underwriting game after more than a decade of losing money.

    In the last two years, many underwriters have exited aviation insurance while the remaining carriers have tightened up underwriting standards, reduced coverage limits, and increased premiums for liability coverage. These changes have impacted nearly all insureds in some fashion, including many receiving invoices with substantial premium increases. Worse still, owner-pilot and single-pilot aircraft have nearly run out of gas in finding adequate or any liability insurance coverage.

    This tightening aircraft insurance market requires aircraft owners and operators to allow significant lead time to search for insurance when buying an aircraft or renewing existing policies. In addition, legal entity structuring and contractual agreements designed to mitigate the risk of personal liability have become more important as insurance underwriters clamp down.

    Liability insurance typically applies to, and is often purchased by, an aircraft owner or operator as the “named insured.” The insurance indemnifies, or pays for, liability of the named insured and, when included in policies, other parties, identified as “additional insureds,” that have an interest in the aircraft or related liability risks. The obligation of the insurer to pay for potential losses is referred to generally as the “duty to indemnify” insureds. The insurance indemnifies for bodily injury, including death, incurred by someone other than the named or additional insured. Coverage should respond when claims arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the insured aircraft. For example, liability coverage should respond to a crash on takeoff or a collision of two aircraft on an airport ramp.

    Problems Illustrated

    To help put market challenges in context, consider two hypothetical situations.

    In the first case, a flight department operates for Big Co., a corporation with significant business operations that is owned privately by one family (Big Co.). The flight department employs professional pilots. Big Co. operates its aircraft under FAR Part 91. The fleet consists of three large cabin and three light jets. One pilot usually operates the light jets.

    Big Co. carried $300 million per occurrence in liability coverage in 2018 but at renewal in 2019, Big Co. could only obtain $100 million per occurrence for the light jets. Big Co. kept the high limits on the large cabin aircraft but absorbed a 25 percent premium increase.

    The carrier informed Big Co. that the light jets dragged down the original insurance limits and warned Big Co. that, in the next renewal into 2021, the underwriter may be able to insure the light jets only if Big Co. operates them with two pilots.

    In the second case, a prospective aircraft owner, an ultra-high-net-worth individual (UHNWI), formed an LLC of which HW is the sole member/owner. The UHNWI client signed an aircraft purchase agreement to buy a $5 million preowned turboprop from the manufacturer but could only secure $1 million of liability coverage at a surprisingly high premium. When the client agreed with the underwriter that a professional pilot would fly the aircraft for a year while the client developed skills and knowledge on how to operate the aircraft, the insurer reluctantly increased coverage to $5 million. The client originally planned to buy 10 times that coverage.

    Strategies

    As the aviation insurance market tightens, many, but not all, owners and operators seeking coverage will either pay higher premiums or be unable to purchase adequate or any coverage. In this new reality, potential owners or operators should engage, or continue to use, a specialized aviation insurance broker (not general lines brokers) to assist in purchasing, modifying or renewing coverage.

    Waiting too long to transact with carriers is hazardous in today’s market as illustrated in the Big Co. and UHNWIsituations, as underwriters seem to be circumspect about accepting or renewing certain underwriting risks, especially for single pilot aircraft. The broker should act as a trusted advisor, exhibit deep knowledge of underwriter capacity and focus quickly on policy provisions that exist or must be modified to optimize protection of the particular aircraft owner or operator.

    In addition to an insurer’s “duty to indemnify” discussed above, insurers also have a “duty to defend” their insureds against liability claims for which potential coverage may arise under a liability insurance policy. The duty to defend is significant, financially and legally, for an insured. Even a small incident can run up significant legal fees regardless of the insurance coverage limits or disposition of the claim.

    For this reason, even low limit liability policy coverage may have significant value to an insured when the insurer and not the insured foots the legal bill.

    However, it’s critical to know when the insurance company can stop paying legal fees, which varies based on the circumstances, policy terms and state law. At that point, the insurance company may be out but the burden to pay legal bills may continue for an owner or operator such as Big Co. or the UHNWI client.

    Legal Steps To Mitigate Liability Risk

    For insureds facing payment demands for successful claims in excess of policy limits, claimants may, and will almost certainly attempt to, overcome legal barriers so they can tap into an owner’s or operator’s personal assets. However, certain structures or contractual strategies may mitigate risk for owners and operators.

    Choice of the Right Owner/Operator Entity. Deeply rooted in state law, various types of entities, if properly structured and managed, can mitigate personal liability of aircraft owners and operators, including certain LLCs, corporations and trusts.

    • LLCs. Private aircraft owners widely believe that LLCs that have no function other than to own their aircraft will shield them from personal liability. In the UHNWI client’s case, they are the sole LLC member. Claimants will almost certainly sue the UHNWI and the LLC and, with a money judgment in hand, seek to pierce the LLC veil and force the UHNWI personally to pay for damages in excess of insurance coverage. This risk is particularly acute if the UHNWI exercises operational control of the aircraft or if liability arises concurrently with a violation of the FARs (see “AINsight: Piercing the Aircraft LLC Veil”). Variations on LLC structures and proper legal management of the LLC company might reinforce its shield against a claimant.
    • Corporations. In the Big Co. example, Big Co. is a corporation, which like other corporations, is designed under state law to shield its shareholders from third party claims against Big Co. However, Big Co., as the aircraft owner, might still be liable for claims in excess of insurance. And the payment by Big Co. itself could, of course, reduce the value of Big Co. to the family that owns it. Placing aircraft in an affiliated company with a lower shareholder value might provide more protection for Big Co. itself and preserve more of the net worth of the family owners.
    • Trusts. Three types of trusts deserve mention, two of which might provide some protection against liability claims. A “statutory trust,” which is a creature of state statutes, protects beneficial owners from liability like shareholders of a corporation. An “irrevocable trust,” often created for estate planning and tax purposes, might protect its beneficiaries from claims because the beneficiary does not own, and claimants should not therefore be able to access, the trust assets as a result of the beneficiary’s liability. A “grantor trust,” often used for compliance with the FARs or asset management, is a pure “pass-through entity” for a beneficiary and is very unlikely to afford any protection to the beneficiary from third-party claims.

    Operate under Part 135. In both examples of Big Co. and the UHNWI client, the owners operate under Part 91 where each of them maintains “operational control” under the FARs. As such, they have direct responsibility for the flights and potential liability for their actions as operators. By contrast, if Big Co. or the UHNWI hires a Part 135 on demand air carrier, the air carrier exercises operational control and thereby takes responsibility for liability arising from the flight’s initiation, conduct, and termination under its air operator certificate.

    Although Big Co. might mitigate its risk of liability by hiring a Part 135 operator, the UHNWI intends to fly his or her own aircraft under Part 91 only. The UHNWI, therefore, needs to look even more closely at other structures to protect themselves against liability in excess of insurance limits, assuming insurance is even available.

    By hiring a Part 135 operator, Big Co. can also access the fleet insurance policy of the operator with more comprehensive coverage including acceptable liability limits. Before signing on to the fleet coverage, Big Co. should investigate whether Big Co. can separately procure superior insurance.

    Contractual Indemnification and Waivers. If an owner or operator does not hire a Part 135 operator or cannot purchase adequate liability insurance, the owner or operator can try to spread risk to other potential claimants by obtaining contractual indemnities from them that connects to that party’s insurance.

    To make this work, the party that indemnifies the owner or operator, such as the UHNWI or Big Co., must modify that party’s insurance policy to obtain a blanket contractual liability coverage through and with the approval of the underwriter—not an easy task.

    Even if the insurance company rejects contractual liability inclusion, an insured can still reduce exposure by asking third parties to waive their rights and claims against the insured in selected circumstances. For example, the UHNWI might try to obtain a liability waiver from their passengers or fuel suppliers (assuming the UHNWI’s compliance with the FARs).

    Conclusion

    In today’s aviation insurance market, underwriters have hit the brakes on issuing cheap and unprofitable aircraft insurance policies. No longer can owners and operators wait until the last moment before aircraft delivery or a renewal date to place, renew or modify aircraft insurance. Quite to the contrary, owners and operators should continuously monitor insurance placement, legal structuring and contractual negotiations to mitigate risk or allocate liability among appropriate parties.

    Many aspects of private aviation transactions benefit from using industry experts to guide owners and operators. It is clear that insurance, regulatory, and transaction expertise in the current insurance market is not optional.

    This article was originally published by AINonline on November 8, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    AINsight: Millennials' Shared Use Is a Real Deal see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses millennials, shared use, and private jet travel.

    Millennials—those ranging in age from 21 to 37 years old this year—have discovered the private jet travel experience, and they like it. With unique attributes, this generation seems broadly interested in on-demand chartering, sharing flights with friends and, to a lesser extent, owning jets and other types of private aircraft—always on their terms.

    Also known as “Gen Y,” Millennials seem to enjoy private aircraft travel “experiences” at an acceptable cost with emphasis on safety, freedom, personalization, efficiency, speed, privacy, customization, and transparency—all couched in a high level of service and luxury. They also crave digital connectivity, mobility, and flexibility to travel when and where they want, preferably arranging private flights on mobile devices.

    Their perception of the benefits of business aviation includes accessibility of aircraft on-demand, the ability of aircraft to save time, and the efficiency of aircraft travel to increase their work productivity.

    Finally, Millennials care deeply about climate change and social causes. They might prefer aircraft operators that demonstrate their environmental responsibility. In fact, the business aviation community has long been committed to mitigating climate change, proven in part by the formation of a broad industry coalition that emphasizes developing and using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

    As a generation of roughly 73 million adults, Millennials often have high ambitions. Their top aspiration and priority in 2019, according to Deloitte, is to travel and see the world (57 percent). But their needs and wants are far more than aspirational. Some Millennials have, and others in the foreseeable future may earn or inherit, more than enough money to travel by private aircraft amid their peers who, by one report, now make up nearly half of the world’s super-wealthy, including Millennial billionaires.

    Indeed, Millennials already seem to be altering the business aviation industry by transforming a business aircraft from a product for purchase into a tool for transportation services in their “click and ride” world.

    VIABLE STEPS FOR MILLENNIALS TO ACCESS PRIVATE AIRCRAFT

    What, then, is the right generational, practical, and legal path forward in business aviation to meet the needs and wants of Gen Y? Setting aside the critical issue of selecting the right aircraft for use or purchase, let’s consider two high-level access and legal structures for Millennials to buy, use and share private aircraft along with the corresponding obligations, risks, and benefits.

    First, Millennials can decide, and currently seem to prefer, to experience private aviation travel without commitment to, or investment in, aircraft. They simply prefer to click and ride. Second, Millennials can elect to own or lease a fractional share of an aircraft or a whole aircraft.

    Regardless of what Millennials choose, private aviation is highly regulated. The FAA oversees the safety of U.S.-registered aircraft operations under the FARs, including Part 91 private flights and Part 135 charter.

    Further, now—perhaps more than ever—the FAA is looking for, and potentially taking enforcement actions against, operational and other violations of the FARs. Even with this FAA presence in mind, Millennials can still share ownership or use of aircraft with others or go it alone—as long as they properly structure their arrangements under the FARs.

    The following two use and ownership options work under the FARs:

    • Use only with no ownership commitment—click and ride. Many Part 135 operators do and increasingly will offer charter-based services such as on-demand charter flights (like renting a car), jet cards (types of pre-paid flight debit cards), block charter programs (package of charter flight hours), club or member programs (reduced flight costs for up-front fees). With myriad choices available, Millennials can select flights by criteria that meet their personal life values, economics and travel preferences, including aircraft type, flight sharing, transparency, connectivity, and privacy.

    Although many of the services might be easy and simple for Millennials to use, it is imperative that Millennials do not trade their safety just to pay lower charter fees offered by flying with illegal charter operators. Millennials should do their diligence to identify and steer clear of such legal and personal risks.

    • Own or lease specific aircraft. Properly structured, Millennials, solo or in a group, can take a deeper commitment in accessing private aircraft by leasing or owning an aircraft. Ownership, of course, requires a capital investment in an aircraft unlike the click-and-ride model, which has no ownership component. Banks may want to lend part or all of the purchase price to Millennials or buy and lease the aircraft to them, which frees up cash for Millennial to deploy in other ventures or equities.

    Within the option to buy or lease aircraft, Millennials can buy and finance or lease a fraction or whole private aircraft. Although a large number of financiers compete to finance or lease whole aircraft, relatively few lenders or lessors finance fractional shares.

    Fractional share programs, regulated under Part 91K, offer one good way to dip a toe into the water of aircraft ownership. Fractional shareowners buy and use a certain number of flight hours associated with owning or leasing as little as a one-sixteenth share of an aircraft.  This type of purchase might appeal to Millennials who decide to change their interests from click-and-ride offerings to ownership in an aircraft fleet that, for example, uses newer engines and fuels that minimize an aircraft’s carbon footprint, has an outstanding safety record, or has better connectivity features on the ground and aloft.

    The next step up in commitment is to buy or lease a whole private aircraft instead of a fraction of one. A Millennial might be able to locate and buy an aircraft that adequately meets his or her personal life values and needs, including size, customization, privacy, and technology. Whole aircraft purchases start to make sense when flying at least 200 hours per year. Before then, click-and-ride or fractional programs might work better economically.

    FARS NEVER FAR AWAY

    If Millennials need or want to share ownership or leasing of an aircraft jointly with others, they can legally structure such sharing under the FARs. However, being an owner and an operator might not be the same thing, and a joint operator (either as a joint owner or a joint lessee) under Part 91 can be tricky. For example, as a general rule, no cost-sharing, reimbursements, or other compensation in any form can be conveyed to any operator or owner for any Part 91 flight, other than under very limited circumstances.

    In many situations, receipt of compensation by the operator will convert the Part 91 flight into an illegal charter. However, if correctly structured, Part 91 will allow Millennials to enter into certain joint ownership and leasing arrangements that Millennials can use to accomplish their objectives.

    In contrast, under a bona fide Part 135 flight operation, Millennials can devise their own cost-sharing arrangements under appropriate agreements with much greater flexibility, typically at a higher cost than Part 91 flights.

    Millennials today and in the foreseeable future will have the financial means to use or acquire personal aircraft. Only time will tell whether Gen Y prefers to fly private aircraft as a service free of the ownership risks or lean into the world of aircraft ownership or leasing, alone and with friends, to fulfill life experiences and work objectives. No matter which way Millennials go, the FARs will be right there with them.

    This article was originally published in AINonline on September 13, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Tip to Tail—Buying New vs. Used Bizjets see more

    NAFA member David G. Mayer, Partner at Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, shares what you need to know when buying a new versus used business jet. 

    Purchasing a new business jet from the manufacturer (OEM) is a far different transaction than buying a used aircraft from a private third party. And planning for aircraft ownership is also part of this story.

    The contrast in new versus used aircraft is especially pronounced when the used aircraft does not comply with the FAA’s January 1, 2020 Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B Out) mandate. The lack of ADS-B Out compliance almost certainly will alter the negotiation for such used aircraft and, if the aircraft is not compliant by 2020, it could morph into a fancy paperweight. New OEM aircraft already comply with ADS-B Out requirements.

    This blog covers a few significant strategic, legal, and negotiating differences relating to new and preowned aircraft sale deals and briefly touches on ownership tax planning, risk management, regulatory compliance, and financing/leasing. This blog also briefly touches on OEMs’ perspectives on negotiation and dispute resolution.

    WHAT'S FOR SALE?

    The big-money aspects of a new aircraft deal start by selecting the right aircraft from the OEM and negotiating the aircraft purchase price. Unlike used aircraft deals, OEM agreements include terms on such items as upgrades, installment payment amounts, and pilot and technician training.

    The used aircraft market enjoyed a record year of sales in 2018 that depleted much of the desirable inventory. However, some experts suggest that the cost of ADS-B equipage and a slowing global economy may cause more used aircraft to come to market in the near term; and the lack of ADS-B Out technology may prolong or complicate buy/sell negotiations even if more aircraft become available.

    When purchasing a new or used aircraft, the parties should engage a team of knowledgeable business aviation experts, consisting primarily of an experienced aircraft broker, a technical inspector/analyst, accounting tax advisor, aviation counsel, aircraft management company, insurance broker, and capable title company or special FAA counsel. A non-aviation participant on the buy or sell side can make transactions more difficult or inefficient for experienced buy/sell teams and their principals.

    Every used aircraft should (but surprisingly does not always) undergo a “pre-buy” inspection before a purchase occurs. The inspection should involve technical experts that delve into the records of the aircraft, ADS-B Out compliance, and the physical/mechanical condition of and required repairs to the aircraft. Counsel should conduct or order title, lien, and other searches at the FAA and on the International Registry with a focus on understanding the domestic and any international ownership since birth of the aircraft.

    For new OEM aircraft, the pre-buy inspection process is dissimilar to preowned aircraft, so much so that OEMs often say that an independent inspection of a factory-new aircraft is unnecessary and the OEM can handle everything from contract to delivery.

    Although some purchasers accept exclusive OEM oversight, all purchasers should still consider engaging a technical expert to interact with the OEM’s teams and inspect the aircraft during construction, knowing that OEMs usually will facilitate such inspections but with appropriate limits. Fundamentally, the expert can assure the purchaser that the aircraft conforms to the agreed specifications and the OEM delivers the aircraft in pristine condition. Also, the parties should always conduct legal diligence similar to a used aircraft sale.

    CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION

    Contractual provisions for used and OEM purchases have some common terms as well as major differences. OEMs believe the form of purchase and sale agreement they provide to their customers works well with few changes. Consequently, the extent of document revisions negotiated and accepted by an OEM may, but not always, pale in comparison to extensive changes drafted into used aircraft purchase agreements.

    OEM contracts personnel, most of whom are not lawyers, have flexibility to make reasonable contract revisions, but their authority has well-honed limits. For example, their authority probably does not extend to accepting unusual revisions, settling a dispute, or altering fundamental OEM liability protections. Accordingly, purchasers should expect these contracts people to seek authority from senior managers or general counsel for revisions to obtain policy or legal guidance on an acceptable contract revision or dispute management.

    For OEMs, each customer and its sale agreement is unique. As such, OEMs uniformly frown on aviation counsel using as precedent sale agreement provisions negotiated in other unrelated transactions with the selling OEM or other OEMs. However, aviation counsel can add value in serving their clients by using their prior experiences to negotiate appropriate terms in the current deal.

    If a customer alleges material breaches by or makes serious litigious claims against the OEM, most OEM general counsel or his/her inside litigation counsel step in and try to reach an accommodation or, if necessary, circle the wagons to protect the OEM’s interests.

    OWNERSHIP PLANNING

    Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, buyers of new aircraft, like used aircraft buyers, may use 100 percent bonus depreciation if the aircraft buyer qualifies for the tax benefit. Planning for ownership is critical to successful tax structuring. For more, read AINsight: 100% Depreciation and Aircraft Personal Use and AINsight: Maximize Aircraft Bonus Depreciation in 2019.

    A purchaser of a new aircraft can potentially obtain a financing benefit that does not apply to used aircraft. Lenders and lessors often agree to fund installment payments to the OEM as the OEM invoices the customer during construction and upon delivery of the aircraft. In addition, these lenders or lessors are often willing to convert the installment payment arrangement into a long-term loan or lease. Either financing or leasing provides substantial benefits to the parties but requires some additional effort to negotiate the agreements. For more, read  AINsight: Should You Finance or Lease a Bizjet?.

    Business aviation insurance brokers not only place appropriate insurance coverage but also can negotiate effectively with aviation underwriters. Purchasers of used and new aircraft generally understand that insurance is a crucial piece of protecting themselves from liability and property damage. However, they may not fully appreciate that a limited liability company (LLC) that buys the aircraft may not provide the LLC owner with the anticipated liability protection. For more, read AINsight: Piercing the Aircraft LLC Veil.

    Operations of private aircraft under Part 91 (private use) or Part 135 (charter use) in the U.S. demand compliance with the applicable regulations by owners and operators of all aircraft. For example, owners of all aircraft must keep their aircraft in the condition required by the applicable regulations for flight operations, not conduct illegal charter operations, and meet technology requirements, including ADS-B Out. Importantly, the FAAis looking for violators of the regulations, in part as described in AINsight: FAA Actively Pursues Illegal Flight Ops.

    Although purchase transactions of new and used aircraft share certain similar elements, they differ in significant respects. Assisted by knowledgeable professionals, a purchaser can and should address business, tax, financing/leasing, risk management, and regulatory issues as part of each deal. A reasonable and pragmatic approach to these transactions should foster amicable negotiations and ultimately produce the right travel solution for the purchaser.

    This article was originally published by AINonline on May 9, 2019.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    AINsight: Maximize Aircraft Bonus Depreciation in 2019 see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP, discusses several aspects of aircraft depreciation including ways to qualify for bonus depreciation.

    Although the total depreciation taken under the straight-line and MACRS depreciation methods is the same, acceleration of depreciation under MACRS increases the time value of the tax benefits of MACRS compared to the slower straight-line method. Consequently, a tax advisor can help evaluate system and method that maximizes depreciation arising out of a taxpayer’s unique circumstances.

    Taxpayers must comply with the MACRS requirements for an aircraft to be eligible for bonus depreciation. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, bonus depreciation applies to new and, for the first time, preowned aircraft acquired and placed into service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023, with a phasedown of 100 percent depreciation starting in 2027. Importantly, to depreciate a preowned aircraft, the taxpayer must not have used the aircraft before purchasing it.

    QUALIFIED BUSINESS USE

    The IRC establishes qualifications for, and limitations on, deducting depreciation under MACRS and, by extension, bonus depreciation. MACRS requires that an aircraft must be used in a trade or business or for the production of income. A taxpayer must also “predominantly” operate the aircraft for “qualified business use” (QBU). In other words, QBU generally means the aircraft operates in connection with the taxpayer’s business enterprise conducted regularly and continuously for income or profit. Predominant use generally refers to 50 percent or more of total aircraft use per tax year.

    In part to guard against taxpayer abuse of depreciation deductions, the IRC has placed aircraft in a special category called “listed property” under IRC Section 280F. In general, listed property that a taxpayer does not use more than 50 percent for business will not qualify for MACRS or bonus depreciation. Instead, such property must be depreciated under the slower ADS using the straight-line method. In relation to depreciation, the failure to comply with MACRS may arise out of excessive personal use under the listed property rules and MACRSrequirements discussed above.

    However, in certain circumstances, an aircraft may be eligible for bonus depreciation if the taxpayer can demonstrate 25 percent business use. Once the 25 percent threshold is met, this special rule in IRC section 280F allows a taxpayer to add in other activity that the rule initially excludes from the QBU test. The effect of the add back is to boost the business use above the basic 50 percent requirement. It is important to prepare contemporaneous and detailed records that support all aspects of QBU on the assumption that the IRS will ask for the records.

    IRC Section 274 describes various types of personal use of aircraft. Often, personal use refers to the use of the aircraft for entertainment, amusement, or recreation such as parties, golf outings, family vacations, and sporting events. But it can also mean personal use of an aircraft for another reason: non-entertainment such as travel of an aircraft passenger for business unrelated to the business activities of the taxpaying entity that owns the aircraft.

    If an aircraft is used for entertainment use, the IRC has a special provision that minimizes the impact of personal use on bonus depreciation. For purposes of depreciation, the provision allows a taxpayer to elect the straight-line calculation of the disallowed deductions attributable to entertainment use. The provision permits a taxpayer to claim bonus depreciation in the acquisition year and, concurrently, elect separately to calculate an IRC Section 274 “entertainment disallowance” using the straight-line method.

    This election allows the taxpayer to deduct more depreciation in the year of acquisition than it otherwise would without the special IRC section 274 rule. This area deserves planning attention as it might, if structured correctly, provide a taxpayer with an increase in after-tax value and spur the taxpayer to establish an entertainment travel policy that applies this provision.

    COMPLIANCE: RECAPTURE INCOME

    My clients often ask whether they can claim bonus depreciation in the acquisition year by satisfying the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements in that year and keep bonus depreciation if they do not satisfy the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements after the acquisition year. In this scenario, the answer is no. And the consequence might be very expensive for the taxpayer because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can use a “recapture” provision.

    By doing so, the IRS causes the taxpayer to recognize income for the excess depreciation taken over the allowable straight-line method as calculated through the year of recapture. After that, the aircraft remains on straight-line and cannot return to MACRS. At a minimum, the taxpayer should track and record the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements throughout the ADS recovery period and, to be on the safe side, as long as the taxpayer owns the aircraft.

    Once a taxpayer qualifies for MACRS and bonus depreciation, the taxpayer will still encounter such other limitations as the passive activity loss limitations, the excess business loss limitations, and the hobby-loss rules.

    Prospective purchasers of aircraft seem universally interested in 100 percent bonus depreciation, but, as a taxpayer, the purchaser should not assume either that the aircraft will be eligible for bonus depreciation or that bonus depreciation will offer the optimal tax and economic solution. Still, by planning ahead of a purchase and involving specialized aircraft tax advisors, a purchaser should be able to identify the appropriate type of depreciation to maximize the reduction in its taxable income and lower its after-tax cost of capital. It certainly seems worth looking closely at bonus depreciation as it is easy to appreciate the significant value it might provide in an overall tax strategy.

    If you plan to purchase a private aircraft in the U.S. this year, developing and executing an appropriate tax strategy before you enter into a letter of intent or contract to purchase the aircraft enhances the likelihood that you will be able to take 100 percent depreciation (bonus depreciation). This strategy should incorporate your projected business revenues, intended aircraft use, and unique attributes as a business taxpayer relative to taking depreciation deductions.

    Depreciation is an allowance Congress enacted to encourage businesses to purchase capital equipment and other tangible personal property such as private aircraft. Depreciation allows business taxpayers to claim an annual tax deduction to recover the aircraft cost or other basis (adjusted cost) of the property for its wear and tear, deterioration, or obsolescence. A taxpayer usually deducts depreciation over a certain number of years called the “recovery period.”

    STRAIGHT-LINE, MACRS, AND BONUS DEPRECIATION

    Perhaps the best-known depreciation method is straight-line under the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS). This method allows the taxpayer to deduct roughly equal parts of the aircraft cost or other basis over the applicable recovery period. The recovery period depends on the predominant use of the aircraft. As a rule of thumb, the recovery period is six years for FAR Part 91 aircraft (private use) and 12 years for FAR Part 135 aircraft (commercial use such as chartering or carrying freight).

    The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is another way to depreciate aircraft. The Internal Revenue Code (IRC) sets forth specific requirements that a taxpayer must meet to qualify to use this accelerated depreciation method. MACRS allows a taxpayer to write-off its aircraft in five years for FAR Part 91 (private use) aircraft and seven years for FAR Part 135 aircraft (commercial use). A taxpayer takes depreciation in the early years of the recovery period relative to approximately equal parts under the straight-line method.

    This article was originally published by David G. Mayer in AINonline on March 8, 2019.

     

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    AINsight: Maximize Aircraft Bonus Depreciation in 2019 see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, partner with Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, discusses how bonus depreciation has its appeal, but it might not be best for a taxpayer's particular set of circumstances.

    If you plan to purchase a private aircraft in the U.S. this year, developing and executing an appropriate tax strategy before you enter into a letter of intent or contract to purchase the aircraft enhances the likelihood that you will be able to take 100 percent depreciation (bonus depreciation). This strategy should incorporate your projected business revenues, intended aircraft use, and unique attributes as a business taxpayer relative to taking depreciation deductions.

    Depreciation is an allowance Congress enacted to encourage businesses to purchase capital equipment and other tangible personal property such as private aircraft. Depreciation allows business taxpayers to claim an annual tax deduction to recover the aircraft cost or other basis (adjusted cost) of the property for its wear and tear, deterioration, or obsolescence. A taxpayer usually deducts depreciation over a certain number of years called the “recovery period.”

    STRAIGHT-LINE, MACRS, AND BONUS DEPRECIATION

    Perhaps the best-known depreciation method is straight-line under the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS). This method allows the taxpayer to deduct roughly equal parts of the aircraft cost or other basis over the applicable recovery period. The recovery period depends on the predominant use of the aircraft. As a rule of thumb, the recovery period is six years for FAR Part 91 aircraft (private use) and 12 years for FAR Part 135 aircraft (commercial use such as chartering or carrying freight).

    The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) is another way to depreciate aircraft. The Internal Revenue Code (IRC) sets forth specific requirements that a taxpayer must meet to qualify to use this accelerated depreciation method. MACRS allows a taxpayer to write-off its aircraft in five years for FAR Part 91 (private use) aircraft and seven years for FAR Part 135 aircraft (commercial use). A taxpayer takes depreciation in the early years of the recovery period relative to approximately equal parts under the straight-line method.

    Although the total depreciation taken under the straight-line and MACRS depreciation methods is the same, acceleration of depreciation under MACRS increases the time value of the tax benefits of MACRS compared to the slower straight-line method. Consequently, a tax advisor can help evaluate system and method that maximizes depreciation arising out of a taxpayer’s unique circumstances.

    Taxpayers must comply with the MACRS requirements for an aircraft to be eligible for bonus depreciation. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, bonus depreciation applies to new and, for the first time, preowned aircraft acquired and placed into service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2023, with a phasedown of 100 percent depreciation starting in 2027. Importantly, to depreciate a preowned aircraft, the taxpayer must not have used the aircraft before purchasing it.

    QUALIFIED BUSINESS USE

    The IRC establishes qualifications for, and limitations on, deducting depreciation under MACRS and, by extension, bonus depreciation. MACRS requires that an aircraft must be used in a trade or business or for the production of income. A taxpayer must also “predominantly” operate the aircraft for “qualified business use” (QBU). In other words, QBU generally means the aircraft operates in connection with the taxpayer’s business enterprise conducted regularly and continuously for income or profit. Predominant use generally refers to 50 percent or more of total aircraft use per tax year.

    In part to guard against taxpayer abuse of depreciation deductions, the IRC has placed aircraft in a special category called “listed property” under IRC Section 280F. In general, listed property that a taxpayer does not use more than 50 percent for business will not qualify for MACRS or bonus depreciation. Instead, such property must be depreciated under the slower ADS using the straight-line method. In relation to depreciation, the failure to comply with MACRS may arise out of excessive personal use under the listed property rules and MACRS requirements discussed above.

    However, in certain circumstances, an aircraft may be eligible for bonus depreciation if the taxpayer can demonstrate 25 percent business use. Once the 25 percent threshold is met, this special rule in IRC section 280F allows a taxpayer to add in other activity that the rule initially excludes from the QBU test. The effect of the add back is to boost the business use above the basic 50 percent requirement. It is important to prepare contemporaneous and detailed records that support all aspects of QBU on the assumption that the IRS will ask for the records.

    IRC Section 274 describes various types of personal use of aircraft. Often, personal use refers to the use of the aircraft for entertainment, amusement, or recreation such as parties, golf outings, family vacations, and sporting events. But it can also mean personal use of an aircraft for another reason: non-entertainment such as travel of an aircraft passenger for business unrelated to the business activities of the taxpaying entity that owns the aircraft.

    If an aircraft is used for entertainment use, the IRC has a special provision that minimizes the impact of personal use on bonus depreciation. For purposes of depreciation, the provision allows a taxpayer to elect the straight-line calculation of the disallowed deductions attributable to entertainment use. The provision permits a taxpayer to claim bonus depreciation in the acquisition year and, concurrently, elect separately to calculate an IRC Section 274 “entertainment disallowance” using the straight-line method.

    This election allows the taxpayer to deduct more depreciation in the year of acquisition than it otherwise would without the special IRC section 274 rule. This area deserves planning attention as it might, if structured correctly, provide a taxpayer with an increase in after-tax value and spur the taxpayer to establish an entertainment travel policy that applies this provision.

    COMPLIANCE: RECAPTURE INCOME

    My clients often ask whether they can claim bonus depreciation in the acquisition year by satisfying the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements in that year and keep bonus depreciation if they do not satisfy the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements after the acquisition year. In this scenario, the answer is no. And the consequence might be very expensive for the taxpayer because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can use a “recapture” provision.

    By doing so, the IRS causes the taxpayer to recognize income for the excess depreciation taken over the allowable straight-line method as calculated through the year of recapture. After that, the aircraft remains on straight-line and cannot return to MACRS. At a minimum, the taxpayer should track and record the QBU and other MACRS eligibility requirements throughout the ADS recovery period and, to be on the safe side, as long as the taxpayer owns the aircraft.

    Once a taxpayer qualifies for MACRS and bonus depreciation, the taxpayer will still encounter such other limitations as the passive activity loss limitations, the excess business loss limitations, and the hobby-loss rules.

    Prospective purchasers of aircraft seem universally interested in 100 percent bonus depreciation, but, as a taxpayer, the purchaser should not assume either that the aircraft will be eligible for bonus depreciation or that bonus depreciation will offer the optimal tax and economic solution. Still, by planning ahead of a purchase and involving specialized aircraft tax advisors, a purchaser should be able to identify the appropriate type of depreciation to maximize the reduction in its taxable income and lower its after-tax cost of capital. It certainly seems worth looking closely at bonus depreciation as it is easy to appreciate the significant value it might provide in an overall tax strategy.

    This article was originally published by Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton on AINonline on March 8, 2019.

     

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    AINsight Blog: Tax Reform a Deal Changer for Bizav see more

    NAFA member, David G. Mayer, Partner at Shackelford Law, discusses the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

    If the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, H.R.1, aimed to simplify federal taxes in the U.S., it missed the mark for business aviation. However, it did include significant tax benefits and other changes worth considering before a prospective business/taxpayer enters into an aircraft purchase, sale, lease, or management arrangement. Changes include full expensing of aircraft cost until 2023, repeal of like-kind exchanges, an exemption of aircraft management fees from federal excise taxes (FET) and continuing incentives for tax leasing.

    H.R.1 should boost new and preowned aircraft acquisitions and sales because it offers buyers immediate cash savings on purchases of aircraft. It does so by increasing “bonus depreciation” on business aircraft purchases from 50 percent to 100 percent starting Sept. 27, 2017, and ending in 2023. After that, it phases down 20 percent per year to zero.

    A business can, therefore, “fully expense” the aircraft cost in the year the business places the aircraft in service in its “trade or business,” meaning it must use the aircraft for more than 50 percent business use. Previously, bonus depreciation applied only to new aircraft, but H.R.1 extends bonus depreciation to preowned aircraft. If the business does not use the aircraft in its trade or business, this benefit does not apply.

    The cash value of full expensing helps offset the disappointing repeal of IRS section 1031 like-kind exchanges. To illustrate, assume a business purchases a preowned, “replacement aircraft” for $5 million in 2018 and sells its fully depreciated, old, “relinquished aircraft,” for $4 million that same year. The business receives $4 million in ordinary income from the sale of the relinquished aircraft and fully expenses the $5 million purchase price of the replacement aircraft.

    At the new corporate tax rate under H.R.1 of 21 percent, down from a previous 35 percent maximum, the business saves $840,000 in taxes on its $4 million sale. Before H.R.1, it would have deferred the taxable income under IRC section 1031 rather than achieve immediate tax savings. Importantly, as bonus depreciation phases down, income taxes will likely increase on proceeds of aircraft sales that a like-kind exchange could otherwise have continued to defer.

    In a change that provides some relief for business aviation, H.R.1 seems to protect management companies and their customers from FET on “aircraft management services.” This new term refers to a broad range of flight, administrative, and support services provided by management companies to aircraft owners and lessees.

    The key to structuring non-FET management arrangements appears to be simple: only aircraft owners and certain lessees may pay for flights of their managed (owned or leased) aircraft, even if they are not on the flight. This rule should ease the concern about IRS imposition of FET and provide a reliable basis for structuring management and leasing transactions.

    One key feature of H.R.1 arises from what it does not include. H.R.1 omits any reference to “possession, command, and control” (PCC) of aircraft, its controversial Chief Counsel opinion in 2012. There, it sanctioned the imposition of FET on management company fees largely because it found that the management companies exercised PCC.

    The absence of that factor in H.R.1 should insulate owners and certain lessees from IRS intrusion based on specious PCC arguments. Nevertheless, owners, lessees, and other operators should scrutinize existing and new aircraft lease and management documentation to align the provisions closely to applicable provisions in H.R.1.

    Management companies beware: H.R.1 does not change the imposition of FET on parties engaged in “transportation by air” under IRS Section 4261 for commercial operations/charter. Further, H.R.1 does not alleviate the existing ambiguity in categorizing private and commercial operations caused, in part, by the IRS’s persistent disregard of FAR Parts 91 and 135.

    Stated differently, the FAR and IRS apply different standards to identify private and commercial flights. Still, this disconnect should not interfere with the practical applications of H.R.1 or the FARs.

    Finally, H.R.1 alters the tax dynamics for leasing. Businesses already use leases, as lessees, to shift residual value risk to owner-lessors and achieve favorable pricing. Although higher pre-H.R.1 tax rates encouraged tax leasing, H.R.1 should nonetheless support tax leasing by lessees that lack a sufficient tax liability to use full benefit of 100 percent bonus depreciation, loan interest, and state income tax deductions.

    A lessor can help reduce its lessee’s after-tax cost of capital when using the tax benefits available to it on acquiring aircraft. By purchasing an aircraft, a lessor with an adequate tax appetite should use tax benefits efficiently and share its reduced tax burden by lowering rents payable by its lessee.

    H.R.1 should help lift the volume of business aviation transactions, but businesses must properly structure deals to make the most of it. As with any tax or legal matter, always consult your own expert to properly address your personal situation.

    David G. Mayer is a partner in the global Aviation Practice Group at the Shackelford Law Firm in Dallas, which handles worldwide private aircraft matters, including regulatory compliance, tax planning, purchases, sales, leasing and financing, risk management, insurance, aircraft operations, hangar leasing and aircraft renovations. Mayer frequently represents high-wealth individuals and other aircraft owners, flight departments, lessees, borrowers, operators, sellers, purchasers, and managers, as well as lessors and lenders. He can be contacted at dmayer@shackelfordlaw.net, via LinkedIn or by telephone at (214) 780-1306.

    This article was originally published on AINonlnie on January 11, 2018.