Selling to Your Partner: Cross Purchase Agreements
Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Business Law Attorney
CROSS PURCHASE AGREEMENTS CAN DEFINE THE TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP BETWEEN PARTNERS, SHAREHOLDERS OR LLC MEMBERS WITHOUT THE HASSLE
One of the most common types of buy-sell agreements in small businesses is the “cross purchase” agreement. This agreement involves a partner/shareholder/LLC member purchasing the ownership or stock of another partner/shareholder/LLC member who is leaving the business. These written agreements are entered into before the parties involved retire or leave the company. Cross purchase agreements set out the terms of the partner/shareholder’s departure from the company, including the compensation they will receive and who will purchase their shares/interest in the company. This helps to avoid potential negative issues related to compensation and other disputes that may arise otherwise.
Cross purchase agreements benefit the parties involved in many ways. They arrange for funding for the compensation due to the departing shareholder, typically requiring the cash or other method of payment to be presented when the agreement is made. This avoids problems associated with liquidity when one partner/shareholder terminates their interest. When you decide to leave the business, you get the money immediately.
Cross purchase agreements are also beneficial because they do not involve the corporation directly. They merely involve one or more partners/shareholders/LLC members purchasing the ownership interest from another partner/shareholder/LLC member, without the business being involved at all. This differentiates them from the other main type of buy-sell agreements, called “redemption” agreements, which involve the business itself purchasing the departing partners shares in the company. By predetermining who will purchase their interest, a cross purchase agreement allows a departing majority shareholder, for example, to control in advance who will receive their majority interest in the business upon their departure. This prevents any second-guessing that a potential buyer may have down the road.
Cross purchase agreements also allow those who do not wish to purchase more shares in the company to stay out of the agreement. In a redemption agreement, the company itself buys out the departing shareholder, meaning each remaining shareholder is forced to acquire more shares, something minority shareholders may not want to do. Cross purchase agreements also assure partners/shareholders that the departing member cannot sell their stake in the company to an undesired third party, preventing an outsider from taking over their business. Overall, the predetermined buyer prevents any last minute surprises for the seller, buyer, and other shareholders in the company.
Cross purchase agreements, like all other buy-sell agreements, can establish a predetermined business value, which is beneficial for tax purposes for businesses that are likely to increase in value. However, in order for the government to honor such a predetermined value, three strict conditions must be met:
- The agreement must be a bonafide business agreement.
- The agreement must be clearly not a device to transfer the business to members of a decedent’s family for less than full and adequate consideration.
- The terms of the agreement must be comparable to similar arrangements entered into by non-parties.
These conditions prevent partners/shareholders from using cross-purchase agreements as a way to get around paying a gift tax.
A properly crafted cross purchase agreement can be a valuable document to assure small business partners, LLC members and shareholders that if they leave the business, they will be compensated and if their partner leaves, they maintain control. It is important that these agreements are properly constructed and the appropriate regulations are followed, however. If not properly constructed, they can lead to undesirable, surprising results.
If you are interested in learning more about cross purchase agreements, you should see an experienced New Jersey business succession planning attorney.
Please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., a knowledgeable, practical business attorney who has been dealing with buy-sell agreements for over 30 years. He can be reached toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Call him today.
Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., a NJ Passing on a Business Attorney
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