FIXED ATTORNEY FEE STRUCTURES
What is an Attorney Fee Structure?
A fee structure can help a lawyer avoid the highest tax brackets by leveling off income spikes due to large fees and spreading the income out over several years. An attorney who otherwise would have an unusually high income in the current year, but elects to spread the income over several years, may avoid paying taxes in the highest bracket or at the very least will defer taxation over a number of future years. Couple the tax savings with guaranteed earnings on the deferred funds, and the benefits of an attorney fee structure becomes very obvious. An attorney fee structure allows an attorney to set up a personally tailored retirement plan without the monetary and age restrictions or other drawbacks of a qualified plan.
Structured attorney fees work very much like a non-qualified deferred compensation plan. The taxes that would be otherwise paid on the fee earned at the time the case is settled are deferred, and that money grows without tax on the growth. When distributions are made, the entire amount distributed during a year is taxable for that year. Based upon a taxpayer’s tax bracket, there may be some distinct tax advantages to entering into this type of arrangement as opposed to being taxed on the entire fee in the year it was earned and then investing it after tax.
Fee structures can be done by one attorney in a firm, without the requirement that other attorneys and employees participate, as would be the case in a qualified retirement plan. Also, there is no limit as to the amount of income deferred. By comparison, there are statutory limits to the amount one can defer in a qualified retirement plan. Even if the attorney participates in a qualified retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA), he or she may still defer additional income through an attorney fee structure. Unlike traditional retirement plans, there is no requirement of annual deferments. An added bonus is that the attorney fee structure annuity has enhanced creditor and judgment protection other investments can’t provide.
In summary, a fee structure allows a plaintiff lawyer to not only defer receipt of (and tax on) their fees until they receive them, they can have the deferred fees invested, and have the income produced from it also taxable over time rather than immediately. A lawyer may want to consider structuring their fees as part of his or her own income tax planning, financial planning, and estate planning.
5 Reasons to Structure Attorney Fees
- It is a pretax investment in a guaranteed high yielding tax deferred annuity.
- Deferring compensation over time results in less being lost to taxes.
- Application of AMT can potentially be avoided.
- Gives you custom cash flow management and allows you to tailor your own income stream.
- Structured fees have enhanced protection from creditors, judgments and divorce decrees.
Contact a Synergy attorney fee structure expert for a consultation about the best strategy to maximize fee deferral opportunities.
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