DEFINITION of 'Custom Adjustable Rate Debt Structure - CARDS'

A type of tax shelter product used by high net worth individuals that involves making a large paper multimillion dollar loan to a foreign party. This party is usually a company that is related to the company that is brokering out the tax shelter. After a series of asset related swaps, the individual receives a paper loss that is equivalent to the original value of the loan. This paper loss can then be used to offset real gains that the individual has earned.

BREAKING DOWN 'Custom Adjustable Rate Debt Structure - CARDS'

CARDS were used in 2000-2002, but the IRS has since deemed them to be illegal, arguing that taxpayers should not be allowed to benefit from losses that were not realized.

Providing CARDS and other questionable tax shelter products was so lucrative that some companies based their businesses on providing them. For example, one of these companies allegedly charged $2 million to create a tax shelter for sum as large as $50 million.

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