JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s (NYSE:JPM) tentative $13 billion settlement with the Department of Justice may be tax-deductible if the Jamie Dimon-led bank succeeds in classifying the payments as "business expenses." But there are specific tax codes that ban offsetting punitive measures against tax, which the bank would have to navigate.
Morgan is expected to pay $9 billion to the government and $4 billion in relief to affected customers.
According to a report from Politico on Wednesday, little is known about the details of the payments, but one tax expert, Alan Feld, law professor at Boston University, says highly specialized counsel will have this tax deduction in mind and it is possible that the deal is structured in such a way that the bank could legally deduct the payments and that it may have even formed part of the agreement with the Department of Justice.
Such tax deductions are not uncommon. ExxonMobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) was able to take advantage of deductions after charges relating to the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 meant only half of a $1.1 billion fine was paid.
The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) attempted a similar move after being fined $615 million by the government over ethics charges, but later backed down when lawmakers objected.
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Since then, lawmakers have attempted to make punitive damages non- tax-deductible with President Barack Obama including it in his fiscal year 2014 budget. “The deductibility of punitive damage payments undermines the role of such damages in discouraging and penalizing certain undesirable actions,” the administration said. Eliminating the tax break would raise an estimated $372 million over a decade, according to the budget proposal.