Grant’s Farm Offers Create Tax Implications for Billy Busch and the St. Louis Zoo

As a Zoo member and avid visitor to both attractions, I’m glued to the developing story on the Grant’s Farm offers, along with many other St. Louis residents.

Grants Farm is currently held in the Busch Family Trust, which is comprised of six family heirs. The land is leased to A-B InBev annually and opens the farm April through October to the public.

Both Billy Busch and the Zoo have made an offer on the property. A few of the farms trustees have said publicly that “maintaining family ownership of Grant’s Farm was extremely important to their father, Gussie Busch”.  Unfortunately, there are tax rules and regulations that may make the sale and transition of the land unfavorable to a family member and more attractive to an outside entity.

Both offers from heir Billy Busch and the St. Louis Zoo are “well below” the appraised value. This means that the offer from Billy Busch potentially creates income, gift and estate tax disadvantages to the other members of the Family Trust. However, the offer from the Zoo, since below market value, may qualify as an income tax charitable deduction quite favorable to the members.

Other tax factors to consider are that A-B InBev has offered to put up nearly $27 million donation towards the purchase, which would be tax deductible to the corporation. In addition to Zoo ownership, if approved, taxpayers from five counties would be supporting Grant’s Farms’ nearly $8.5 million of yearly operating cost through a tax increase.

The common visitor like myself has their concerns about the future of this one-of-a-kind attraction, such as free admission, family fun, and of course… free beer. However, there are many complex issues behind such transactions that can affect buyers, sellers, and in this case taxpayers that have to be considered.