Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » *** UPDATED x1 - Pritzker responds *** “A massive exploitation of a federal tax loophole”
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*** UPDATED x1 - Pritzker responds *** “A massive exploitation of a federal tax loophole”

Tuesday, Dec 5, 2017

* From a pal’s text message today…

You checked out the South Dakota Pritzker trust stuff yet?

Um, no, but I just Googled it.

* Bloomberg, 2014

Among the nation’s billionaires, one of the most sought-after pieces of real estate right now is a quiet storefront in Sioux Falls, S.D.

A branch of Chicago’s Pritzker family rents space here, down the hall from the Minnesota clan that controls the Radisson hotel chain. Other rooms are held by Miami and Hong Kong money.

Most days, the small offices of this former five-and-dime are shut. But even empty, they provide their owners with an important asset: a South Dakota address for their trust funds.

In the past four years, the amount of money administered by South Dakota trust companies such as these has tripled to $121 billion — almost all of it from out of state. The families needn’t move to South Dakota, deposit their money at a local bank, or even touch down in the private jet. Little more than renting an address in Sioux Falls is required to take advantage of South Dakota’s tax-friendly trust laws.

States such as South Dakota are “creating laws that are conducive to a massive exploitation of a federal tax loophole,” said Edward McCaffery, a law professor at the University of Southern California. “We have a tax haven in our midst.”

South Dakota’s sudden popularity illustrates how the wealthiest Americans are embracing ever more creative ways to reduce taxes legally. Executives at South Dakota Trust Co., one of the state’s biggest, estimate that one-quarter of their business comes from special vehicles known as dynasty trusts that are designed to avoid the federal estate tax. Creation of such trusts has surged in recent years as changes in federal law have enabled more money to be placed in them.

While the super-rich use various tools to escape the levy, the advantage of dynasty trusts is that they shield a family’s wealth forever. That defies the spirit of the estate tax, enacted almost 100 years ago to discourage the perpetuation of dynastic wealth. […]

In 2010, the Pritzker family, whose members include Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, revealed in a securities filing that one branch had moved $360 million of Hyatt Hotels stock to trusts overseen by a native South Dakotan named Thomas Muenster. Muenster, whose sister married [JB] Pritzker, maintains an office in the Kresge building. […]

Jay Robert [JB] Pritzker, his sister Penny Pritzker and his brother-in-law Muenster didn’t respond to messages seeking comment

By the way, Thomas Muenster, the brother-in-law, was also involved with that hugely controversial and successful attempt to lower JB Pritzker’s property tax bill in part by removing the toilets from an empty mansion

Pritzker’s name isn’t mentioned in the documents the assessor’s office released for the mansions. Both are owned by a limited liability company managed by Thomas Muenster, whose sister is Pritzker’s wife. But the Pritzker campaign acknowledges that the LLC is owned by a trust for Pritzker. Muenster and the law firm Schmidt Salzman & Moran filed the appeals with Berrios.

* MarketWatch, 2014

In the 1990s, most states limited the duration of family trusts to the lifetime of a living heir, plus 21 years; South Dakota, in contrast, had no limits at all. That made it possible, in theory, for a wealthy benefactor to create a trust that could benefit not only her kids, but her great-great-great-great-grandkids.

Since then, more states have removed their duration limits, but the Mount Rushmore State has stayed ahead of the competition. South Dakota laws go the extra mile to shield trust assets from creditors and spouses, and let families control their own trust investments, rather than hiring trustees. What’s more, the state levies no income tax on investments.

Trusts in the state became particularly popular toward the end of 2012, when wealthier families feared that Congress might make more of their assets subject to estate tax (a fear that wasn’t realized). According to regulatory filings, wealthy folks who have taken advantage of prairie generosity in recent years include the Pritzker family, who moved $360 million worth of Hyatt Hotels Corp. stock to the state in 2010

* Quartz Media, 2014

Most recently, McDowell and his crew persuaded the state legislature to pass laws that make it harder for the former spouses of wealthy people and their children to access assets hidden in South Dakota. That’s just the gravy, however, on laws that attract everyone from the billionaire Pritzker family to the heirs to the Wrigley fortune: They exempt dynastic trusts from federal inheritance taxes and income taxes, allowing generations of heirs to collect money tax-free. South Dakota was one of the first states to make such a law, but now almost a dozen others are following it in a race to the bottom.

The South Dakotans cite around a hundred jobs created by the trust industry, and figure that’s enough. But the state is also a net taker from the federal government, which supplies almost half its budget, even as its trusts drain perhaps billions of dollars from federal coffers and hundreds of millions from states where the beneficiaries of these trusts actually live.

* Financial Times, 2016

Andy Holmes relocated from Kansas City last year to help his firm, the Great Plains Trust Company, increase its presence in South Dakota after clients, including celebrities and famous athletes, asked about the state’s benefits.

Great Plains worked with SDTC to learn the ropes, but last year leased a windowless office in a brick and glass building for its two employees. Down the hall is Maroon Trust, which manages the money of Chicago’s Pritzker family. Elsewhere on the floor is a roofing company. They share a receptionist.

Mr Holmes estimates that 90 per cent of the registered trusts in the state “are what I call shell companies where you basically have a PO box or an office and somebody will come here twice a year to have board meetings and meet regulatory requirements.”

*** UPDATE *** Pritzker campaign…

JB does not have any dynasty trusts; all of the trusts for his benefit have a rule against perpetuities so the “massive exploitation of a federal tax loophole” that is referenced in the article does not apply to JB.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - City Zen - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:13 pm:

    South Dakota, a right-to-work state with no state income tax. That might counter JB’s messaging just a bit.

  2. - Uhh - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:13 pm:

    oh my…


  3. - @MisterJayEm - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:16 pm:

    But on the plus side, South Dakota is just about as far from ‘off-shore’ as you can get.

    – MrJM

  4. - DuPage Saint - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:18 pm:

    I am sure in the next commercial JB runs lambasting the Republican tax bill he will bring this injustice up

  5. - Juice - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    City Zen, because JB was worried his cash might join a union?

    Right to work has nothing to do with it.

  6. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:23 pm:

    CZ, your post makes no sense in any way. What are you talking about in this context?

    So SD creates a scam to shield billions in assets from federal taxation for 100 jobs?

    That’s government “job creation” taken past the lunacy line.

  7. - Gooner - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:35 pm:

    Republicans are going to have a tough time exploiting this, given their theory that tax cuts for rich lead to job creation.

  8. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:38 pm:

    Blows a massive hole in is progressive tax push. Main counterargument is that taxes drive choices on where the wealthy take their money. Exhibit A.

  9. - Uhh - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:39 pm:

    Gooner- if you forgot- JB still needs to get thru a primary and this stuff is just sitting there on a tee for Kenendy, Biss.

  10. - Wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:43 pm:

    –Exhibit A–

    It would be swell if you read the post before commenting.

    It’s a federal tax dodge. And SD is claiming no benefits other than 100 jobs.

    That’s an economic development strategy to you?

  11. - Annonin' - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:43 pm:

    So GovJunk wags a finger. Does this mean we can go back to GA bank he ran and crashed before the Bush=Cheney Depression began giving a bank honoch 6 figure bonus and gift cards to the fired workers?

  12. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:46 pm:


    No one said anything about development strategies. The choice is the choice, and it was driven by taxes. Calm yourself.

  13. - SSL - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:50 pm:

    It would be one thing if JB wasn’t coming at me through my TV every day telling me how the wealthy need to pay their fair share. But he is.

    This man and his family have taken significant steps to avoid paying taxes at every opportunity. Again, if he wasn’t talking about raising taxes it wouldn’t be so bad.

    Do you really think he can pay for his campaign promises by only taxing the 1%. Do you trust that he won’t raise everyone’s taxes but his own.

    This isn’t an isolated incident. It is another piece in a body of work over a lifetime. JB is an example of the liberal elite, and his motto is do as I say, not as I do.

  14. - WasAnon - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:51 pm:

    It’s legal. Don’t mean it’s honest. What was it Tom Hagen said about a lawyer and a briefcase…? Hypocrisy made bold.

  15. - Vole - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:53 pm:

    Trust money looks like it is gonna bust trust.

  16. - SmartiePants - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:55 pm:

    If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break

  17. - Responsa - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:55 pm:

    ==- Annonin’ - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:43 pm:==

    So, I guess you’re going with the famous “look, a squirrel” defense, eh?

  18. - Leatherneck - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:57 pm:

    Did the toilets from the mansion get moved to the old store?

  19. - A Jack - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 12:59 pm:

    How does that compare to the shell company that Rauner set, up, put a disabled old man in charge of, and saddled with a boat load of debt before that shell declared bankruptcy?

  20. - Ducky LaMoore - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:03 pm:

    I am still trying to figure out why this is shocking to anybody. Trust fund people are trust fund people. The money goes where profit is maximum and taxes are minimum. Did everyone really think all his money would be down at the local bank?

  21. - A Jack - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:09 pm:

    Chicago Tribune Sep 29, 2014, in case you missed the Rauner nursing home debacle.

    What is worse, setting up a shell company to avoid legally paying federal taxes, or setting up a shell to avoid nursing home law suits as Rauner and his partners did?

  22. - Lucky Pierre - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:14 pm:

    Liberal Billionaire hypocrisy on the part of other wealthy Governors is also being practiced in Minnesota.

    No wonder why Governor Dayton doesn’t mind raising taxes on wealthy people who actually earn their money through a salary instead of inheritance.

  23. - Anyways - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:20 pm:

    Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

  24. - A guy - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:23 pm:

    The irony of Billionaires stashing money in Kresges, the forerunner of K Mart.

    Can’t make it up.

  25. - Ducky LaMoore - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:23 pm:


    So what is your solution then? Confiscation of assets, states taxing trusts that are in other states, banning trusts?

  26. - A Jack - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:23 pm:

    I would take Minnesota’s Governor over Rauner any time. Minnesota’s Governor expanded Minnesota’s economy greatly. You can’t say that about Illinois’ current Governor, can you?

  27. - City Zen - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:23 pm:

    ==What is worse…==


  28. - SSL - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:29 pm:

    At the end of the day this is a character issue. JB, with all his billions doesn’t want to pay his taxes. His actions are inconsistent with his words. He could teach a course on tax dodging.

    You want to defend him by saying it’s legal, go right ahead. But that doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t speak well of the candidate.

    And for the record, Rauner has not been an effective governor and should not be reelected.

  29. - Lucky Pierre - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:31 pm:

    How about if wealthy hypocritical, Democrats stop demonizing hard working, successful people and hoodwinking their supporters into believing that if only the wealthy paid their fair share all the problems in the state would be fixed.

    That would be a start

  30. - Winnin’ - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:32 pm:

    But did Pritzker gut any nursing homes a the peril of residents’ lives?

  31. - A guy - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:33 pm:

    I bet this entire family wishes for the days where they were only mentioned on the Society Page with Sugah, Leslie, and Christie.

  32. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:35 pm:

    ==How does that compare to the shell company that Rauner set, up, put a disabled old man in charge of, and saddled with a boat load of debt before that shell declared bankruptcy?==

    Sorry A Jack, the reality is that no one cares about all that stuff. Didn’t you read the newspaper editorials in October of 2013? They didn’t care then, and will not care next year either. The raunerbots here don’t care. They will just ignore it and give you a lot of ”whatabout Madigan?” The Bernie-crats do care, but will be too busy yelling “but, trust funds!” and staying home on election day as a form of protest against The Man. Better to just not think about it, and save yourself the aggravation.

  33. - RNUG - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 1:59 pm:

    Tax avoidance is legal. Everyone does what they can to avoid taxes. In fact, I’ll bet 90% of the commentators here skip the line on the IL personal tax form for calculating the sales tax owed on internet (out of state / mail order) purchases.

    And if the money is in a trust for more than one person, whoever is managing that trust has a duty to maximize returns and minimize taxes … just like any financial manager.

  34. - midway gardens - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 2:21 pm:

    Tax avoidance is legal. The rich have more opportunities. That doesn’t change that he’s a hypocrite.

  35. - People Over Parties - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 2:22 pm:

    ===Tax avoidance is legal===

    Try explaining that to voters.

  36. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 2:23 pm:

    Anon, I’m quite calm, I just don’t understand your point. You seem to think that you have one.

  37. - City Zen - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 2:26 pm:

    ==I’ll bet 90% of the commentators here skip the line on the IL personal tax form for calculating the sales tax owed on internet (out of state / mail order) purchases.==

    Does that include plumbing equipment and fixtures? Asking for a friend.

  38. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 3:36 pm:

    ==You seem to think that you have one.==

    Stay with me.

    Rich people.
    Make choices.
    Based on taxes.

    A successful progressive tax argument relies on overcoming that objection, to some extent. Tough to do when you’re living proof.

  39. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 3:52 pm:

    Thanks “SSL” & “LuckyPiere” just another scam for the rich guys. RICH Do Kennedy and Bliss have enough $$$$$ to advertise this stuff?

  40. - Anonymous324 - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 4:55 pm:

    I see the update from the Pritzker camp…which actually raises a different issue. If he did have dynasty trusts, that would make sense as to how he was able to avoid much of an income tax burden, albeit while being a hypocrite. However, assuming their statement is true (I know, I know…) he apparently doesn’t, which just means the original questions of “where is his money coming from” remains.

  41. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 5:00 pm:

    Given the update from the Pritzker camp, it seems this whole thread was wrong. He’s not taking advantage of the loophole and he is paying taxes on the trusts.

  42. - Dippity Do Dah - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 5:38 pm:

    JB doesn’t benefit from any of those trusts domiciled in South Dakota? Show your work Pritzker campaign. This is turning into an avalanche.

  43. - RNUG - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 5:55 pm:

    == Try explaining that to voters. ==

    The voters apparently had no problem with a nursing home bust out operator …

  44. - RNUG - Tuesday, Dec 5, 17 @ 6:02 pm:

    == Does that include plumbing equipment and fixtures? Asking for a friend ==

    Anything bought out of state that would have been subject to a sales tax here.

    It’s supposed to be calculated (a) on the actual purchases based on all your receipts or (b) a tax table based on income.

  45. - Rabid - Wednesday, Dec 6, 17 @ 7:26 am:

    Rauner wants to meddle in the democratic primary, JB should have fun with the GOP primary

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed for the weekend
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* *** UPDATED x1 *** Pritzker campaign lawyer hints at defamation suit, claims campaign was never served
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* *** UPDATED x1 - Speaker Ryan to campaign for Davis *** Trump likely coming to Illinois to boost Bost
* Musical Interlude: Try (just a little bit harder)
* Tell me another fairytale, Grandpa
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