Top shareholders gain biggest tax break from disbursement

Last year, hotel and casino operator Wynn Resorts gave its shareholders a $5-a-share extra dividend, payable just before Christmas. This year, the company was earlier and more generous. Two days before Thanksgiving, Wynn stockholders received an extra $7.50 a share in addition to the regular $0.50 dividend.

One factor for the increase in extra payments at many companies this year is the possible replacement of the generously low 15% tax on dividends by standard income taxation. If Congress and the Obama Administration don’t avert the fiscal cliff, dividends will be taxed as ordinary income effective Jan. 1. And, since the Bush-era tax-cut rates will also expire with the start of 2013, dividends paid next year would be taxed at rates up to 39.6%.

Once again, the biggest beneficiaries of Wynn Resorts’ largess are named Wynn. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn holds more than 10 million shares of the company’s stock. His ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, owns 9.7 million shares. Their combined take in extra dividends this year is more than $148 million, on which they will pay taxes of about $22.2 million.

Had this been salary or bonus, the taxes would have been close to $52 million this year, or more than $58 million in 2013.

Don’t shed tears for other company honchos. Chief operating officer Marc Schorr received more than $2 million from the extra dividend, while Linda Chen, who heads international marketing, got $2.2 million.

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