Bill Davidson, the late owner of the Detroit Pistons, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Guardian Industries — one of the country’s largest private companies — had a reputation for being aggressive. The Pistons aggressively built two championship teams under his watch and was inducted into the NBA’s Hall of Fame in 2008. His businesses thrived through his management. But the IRS now says Bill Davidson was too aggressive in his tax-reducing estate planning techniques.
The IRS recently filed a petition in US Tax Court in Washington, D.C., claiming that Bill Davidson Estate owes up to two billion dollars in taxes. Yes, that’s two Billion — with a capital “B”. How could any individual rack up such a large tax bill?
Davidson, like many wealthy people who worry about estate taxes, gave away assets through gifts, trusts, and other transfers to his wife and other family members. The IRS says that he undervalued the worth of these assets. They feel his reported net worth of around $3 billion was really much higher — perhaps in the neighborhood of the $5.5 billion figure that Forbes reported his new worth to be in 2008.