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    April 9, 2008  
 
 

JET-SETTER


Join us for lunch with three of America's top General Counsels: Freddie Mac's Bob Bostrum, the Washington Post's Veronica Dillon, and American Capital Strategies' Sam Flax (largest publicly-held private equity firm in the US; Sam and his team were named WMACCA's law department of the year).  Wed, May 28, at Il Mulino in DC. Sign up here. Thanks to great sponsor Studley.

 

If you want to rub elbows with the elite, you can always grab a table at BLT. But the crowd there is nothing compared to that in Keith Swirsky's waiting room. Keith, chairman of the aviation and tax groups at 20-lawyer boutique Galland, Kharasch, Greenberg, Fellman & Swirsky, handles tax issues for about 300 airplane purchases per year. His massive client list—which, standing at about 1300 clients, makes him one of the most prolific aviation attorneys in the country—includes 20% of U.S. jet owners and a majority of the Forbes 400.       

 

Keith tells us the price tag on a private jet ranges from $2-$60 million, though most of his clients are interested in the higher end. They can afford it: his average client's net worth surpasses $100 million. Among other things that buys you is discretion—Keith wasn't naming his individual clients, but did allow that he represents some of the largest banks, department stores, real estate firms and financial houses in the nation. While his clients usually have their own accountants, Keith says aviation tax planning is a subspecialty with which most general tax advisors are not familiar. He says after doing the sales tax correctly, the most important service he provides is calculating write-offs as well as depreciation, which can last up to 5 years.

 

Bisnow reporters are planning on buying their own planes (right after winning Pulitzer and dating supermodels), so we asked Keith how much it costs to fly in style. Even a mid-class cabin model will set you back at least $500,000 in yearly operating fees. Even if you pilot a very light jet yourself, it costs $500/hour. Keith says that to justify the expense of a plane, someone needs to fly 200 hours or more per year. Oh, but then it adds up.   

 

While Keith doesn't have his own plane, he satisfies his need for speed with cars and boats. He owns a 46-foot sloop and races in Annapolis in a Wednesday series. He also drives with the Ferrari Club in West Virginia up to eight times per year. That's life in the fast lane.  

 
 
 
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