Tag Archives: Exclusion Amount

Gifting in a Time of Uncertainty

Many are gifting their assets to family members, friends, and their communities in order to assist them through these difficult times. As discussed below, the timing of such gifts may benefit the donor as much as the recipient.

Some basics: Gift taxes and estate taxes are linked in the federal tax system. In other words, these taxes share the same basic exclusion amount (BEA) that an individual is allowed in computing their federal gift and estate tax. The current BEA adjusted for inflation is $11.58 million per individual. This means each taxpayer can transfer up to $11.58 million tax free in any combination of lifetime gifts or testamentary gifts (gifts made after death, e.g., by will or trust).

There is an important general exception: federal law allows an unlimited number of annual gifts an individual can make tax free. The current annual gift tax exclusion amount is $15,000 per donee (recipient). Taxpayers can make annual exclusion gifts to as many donees as they would like before reducing or utilizing any of their BEA.

A important recent legislative amendment: Beginning on January 1, 2018, the BEA was increased from $5 million to $10 million as adjusted for inflation. Under the current federal tax code, on January 1, 2026, the BEA—which is now $11.58 million—will revert or “sunset” back to $5 million as adjusted for inflation. Thus, the current federal tax code permits an individual or their estate to utilize the current, increased BEA to shelter from gift and estate taxes an additional $5 million of transfers made during the eight (8) year period beginning on January 1, 2018, and ending on December 31, 2025.

But what happens if you die after December 31, 2025, having transferred more than $5 million in lifetime and testamentary gifts?

Enter an IRS special rule: On November 26, 2019, the IRS adopted a special rule to address just such question. The rule precludes the IRS from recapturing or “clawing back” all, or a portion, of the benefit of the increased BEA used to offset gift tax by persons who make taxable gifts during the increased BEA period, and die after December 31, 2025. The rule ensures that a decedent’s estate is not inappropriately taxed with respect to gifts that were sheltered from gift tax by the increased BEA when made.

But what if a decedent failed to take advantage of the current increased BEA?

The critical fine print: The special rule also makes clear that the increased BEA is a “use or lose” benefit and is available to a decedent who survives the increased BEA period only to the extent that the decedent “used” it by making gifts during the increased BEA period.

*PLEASE BE ADVISED that the foregoing only provides a basic overview of particular provisions within the federal tax code and corresponding regulations, and it not intended to be relied upon for any individual’s specific circumstances. You should consult with an experienced tax professional for personalized guidance.

Executors Must Make Portability Election for 2011 Estates

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 added a new “portability feature” for estates of decedents dying after 2010 and before 2013, under which the applicable exclusion amount is the sum of (1) the “basic exclusion amount” (i.e., $5 million with an adjustment for inflation after 2011), and (2) in the case of a surviving spouse, the “deceased spousal unused exclusion amount.”  The “deceased spousal unused exclusion amount” is the lesser of: the basic exclusion amount, or the excess of the basic exclusion amount of the last deceased spouse dying after Dec. 31, 2010, of the surviving spouse, over the amount on which the tentative tax on the estate of the deceased spouse is determined.

A surviving spouse may use the deceased spousal unused exclusion amount in addition to her own $5 million exclusion for taxable transfers during life or at death.

The IRS recently issued a Notice reminding executors of estates of individuals dying after Dec. 31, 2010, that they must timely file a Form 706 tax return, in order to allow the surviving spouse to take advantage of the decedent’s unused exclusion amount.  Any attempts to make a portability election for the estate of a decedent dying on or before Dec. 31, 2010 will be ineffective.

Most married couples will want the surviving spouse to be able to take advantage of the unused basis exclusion amount of the first spouse to die.  In order to do so, a Form 706 must be properly and timely filed.  Form 706 must be filed in order to make the election, even if the estate is not required to file a Form 706 due to a value lower than the exclusion amount.

You can contact a qualified estate planning attorney at 775-688-3000 to discuss how you may take advantage of the portability election.

by: Jason Morris, Esq.