Warren Pushes Treasury to Finalize Private Equity Fee Rule

Updated on

Senator Elizabeth Warren urged the Treasury Department to finalize its rule limiting the tax benefits enjoyed by private equity managers.

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, sent a letter Monday to the Treasury calling for quick finalization and swift enforcement of the rule. Warren sent the letter along with Senate Democrats Al Franken of Minnesota, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

In July the Treasury proposed limiting the practice of reducing private equity tax bills by reclassifying how management fees are taxed. The rule would make it harder for firms to convert fees subject to high taxes into lower-taxed carried interest and take advantage of a 19.6 percentage-point difference in top tax rates. Comments on the rule are due by Oct. 21.

“Billions of dollars of tax revenue has already been permanently lost as a result of abusive fee waivers,” the letter said. “The IRS must ensure that full taxes, interests and penalties be paid with respect to all abusive fee waivers. We expect this to be a high priority for the agency.”

The Treasury’s measure represents one of the strongest attempts to limit the tax benefits enjoyed by private equity managers. It’s also become an issue on the presidential campaign trail as billionaire and candidate Donald Trump, a Republican, has called for an end to tax provisions that benefit managers of private equity firms and hedge funds.

The senators called the practice “tax cheating” and said private equity fund managers have used these waivers to disguise payments for services as capital gains.

President Barack Obama had wanted to tax carried interest as ordinary income at rates up to 43.4 percent instead of as capital gains at rates up to 23.8 percent. That effort fell short even when Democrats controlled Congress and has been stalled since Republicans are in charge of both chambers.

“Treasury has recognized for quite some time that the characterization of carried interest income cannot be changed without legislation,” according to a statement from the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, a lobbying group for the industry.

Typically, private equity firms charge their investors a 2 percent fee on their assets and also keep 20 percent of profits, known as carried interest.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE