FORTUNE -- Facebook (FB) is going public this week and, for many existing shareholders, it's not a moment too soon.
If the company begins trading on Friday, it would be exactly 228 days before the end of 2012. Or, put another way, 228 days before capital gains tax rates are expected to rise.
Why does this matter? Because Facebook has instituted a series of "lock-ups" for existing shareholders, including company employees.
The vast majority of these expire 181 days after Facebook goes public, which likely means they expire on November 15. At that point, holders would have just six weeks to get liquid before 15% capital gains rates expire and are replaced by the pre-Bush 20% rates. In fact, 20% might be a floor, depending on how the elections go -- given certain Democratic proposals to increase capital gains rates even more on high earners (a bucket into which most current Facebook shareholders would almost certainly fall).
"I don't care if the IPO in May or June, so long as it isn't in July," said one current Facebook investor, who bought shares on the secondary market from company employees.
But not everyone necessarily feels that way. Certain Facebook shares are locked up for 211 days after the IPO, which would work out to December 17 (technically the day before, but that would be a Sunday). So, for those positions, pricing now is imperative.
In fact, the only current Facebook shareholders locked up past 2012 will be Russia's DST Group and Mail.ru Group. Those firms, which are selling around 35% of their holdings at IPO, will be prohibited from selling additional shares until May 19, 2013.
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Our tax system helped get us into our economic mess. Now it can help get us out.
By Sheila Bair, contributor
FORTUNE -- As we undertake the annual mind-numbing rite of filling out our tax returns, let us pause to reflect on the role our tax code played in the financial crisis.
What brought us the crisis? Overly leveraged financial institutions made high-yield mortgages to overly leveraged consumers. Financial institutions then concocted trillions of MOREMar 5, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Part of Obama's grand tax compromise (aka Stimulus II, The Surprise) is that capital gains rates would remain unchanged. That means indefinite levies of 15% on investment profits, rather than the anticipated January 1 increase to 20%.
This reminds me of an argument that began making the rounds this time last year among bankers and private equity professionals: 2010 will see a massive rush of M&A activity, as owners and investors MOREDan Primack - Dec 8, 2010 4:21 PM ET
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