John Oliver made news a few months ago by purchasing nearly $15 million in outstanding medical bill debt for $60,000 -- less than a penny on the dollar.
But, I read that cancellation-of-debt ("COD") is taxable income. How Oliver got around this ("...no tax consequences whatsoever...") seems odd...
Oliver set up a dummy corporation ("CARP") and then as CEO of CARP, he negotiated the debt purchase (presumably from some other collection agency).
But, rather than forgive the debt directly, CARP turned around and donated the debt to RIP, a charitable organization.
Am I to understand that this second transfer was necessary in order to explicitly avoid the tax consequence of COD? I do understand that COD is taxable income, but "gifts" are not.
I'm assuming that Once CARP purchased the debt, it then had rights of ownership with respect to debt collection, i.e. it could (1) continue pursuing collections from the debtors, (2) do nothing with the debt, (3) forgive the debts individually or en masse, or (4) donate it to a charity (which is what it did). After CARP gave (donated) the debt to RIP, then RIP was free to forgive the debts (which is its explicitly-stated mission).
Had CARP pursued option (3) above, then does that mean all that forgiven debt was/is taxable income as COD?
I just now realized that, in a theoretical situation where CARP chose option (1) -- attempt to collect on the debt. Pretending that CARP successfully collected e.g. $1 million, is this simply money that CARP can keep? (Subject to corporate income tax, of course.)
I'm also assuming that "purchasing" debt gives the purchaser rights of ownership such that any collected money from a debtor cannot be further claimed by previous creditors. Is this indeed the case?