Many defendants, particularly celebrities, often try to keep settlement agreements private and they seek confidentiality as part of the bargain. Dennis Rodman, former Chicago Bulls basketball player and current friend of the North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un, kicked a photographer in 1997 during a basketball game and the photographer sued for personal injuries. Eventually a $200,000.00 settlement was reached and, as part of the deal, the photographer agreed to keep the settlement confidential.
In steps the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS asserted that since no specific dollar amount had been allocated for the confidentiality portion of the agreement, 60% of the amount should be taxed. The photographer appealed and argued that the tax value was de minimis, if any, but he lost his appeal.
So, dear friends, the next time a confidentiality clause is suggested by the defendant as a necessary part of the agreement, remember Dennis Rodman. Remember the photographer who had to pay taxes on $80,000.00. Remember that you should always try to avoid confidentiality agreements. However, if you do agree, be sure to designate a specific dollar amount for that portion of the settlement and expect this amount to be taxable. For more information, see Amos v. Commissioner of IRS, T.C.M. of 2003–320. US Tax Court.