Category: Gift Tax

When to File a Gift Tax Return

When to File a Gift Tax Return

The IRS wants to know how much you’re gifting over the course of your lifetime. This is because while gifts may be based on generosity, they are also a strategy for avoiding taxes, including estate taxes, reports The Street in a recent article “How Do Gif Taxes Work?”. It is important to understand when to file a gift tax return and the consequences of not filing.

Knowing whether you need to file a gift tax return is relatively straightforward. The IRS has guidelines about who needs to file a gift tax return and who does not. Your estate planning attorney will also be able to guide you, since gifting is part of your estate and tax planning.

If you give a gift worth more than $16,000, it is likely you need to file a gift tax return. Let’s say you gave your son your old car. The value of used cars today is higher than ever because of limited supply. Therefore, you probably need to file a gift tax return. If the car title is held by you and your spouse, then the car is considered a gift from both of you. The threshold for a gift from a married couple is $32,000. Make sure that you have the right information on how the car is titled.

What if you added a significant amount of cash to an adult child’s down payment on a new home? If you as a member of a married couple gave more than $32,000, then you will need to file a gift tax return. If you are single, anything over $16,000 requires a gift tax return.

529 contributions also fall into the gift tax return category. Gifts to 529 plans are treated like any other kind of gift and follow the same rules: $16,000 for individuals, $32,000 for married couples.

What about college costs? It depends. If you made payments directly to the educational institution, no gift tax return is required. The same goes for paying medical costs directly to a hospital or other healthcare provider. However, any kind of educational expense not paid directly to the provider is treated like any other gift.

Do trusts count as gifts? Good question. This depends upon the type of trust. A conversation with your estate planning attorney is definitely recommended in this situation. If the trust is a “Crummey” trust, which gives the beneficiary a right to immediately withdraw the gift put into the trust, then you may not need to file a gift tax return.

A Crummey trust is not intended to give the beneficiary the ability to make an immediate withdrawal. However, the withdrawal right makes the gift in the trust a “current gift” and it qualifies for the annual exclusion limit. Recategorizing the gift can potentially exempt the person giving the gift from certain tax obligations. Check with your estate planning attorney.

Even when someone does file a gift tax return, the amount of tax being paid is usually zero. This is because the gifts are offset by each person’s lifetime exemption. The IRS wants these returns filed to keep track of how much each individual has gifted over time. Unless you are very wealthy and making gift transfers from a family trust or to family members, it is not likely you will ever end up paying a tax. You are, however, required to keep the IRS informed. If you would like to learn more about gift taxes and ways to limit them, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The Street (March 31, 2022) “How Do Gift Taxes Work?”

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GRATs are used to Reduce Taxes

GRATs are used to Reduce Taxes

Estate planning includes using various methods to reduce gift and estate taxes, as described in a recent article titled “Grantor Retained Annuity Trust Questions Answered” from Entrepreneur. GRATs are one type of irrevocable annuity trust used by estate planning attorneys to reduce taxes.

An annuity is a financial product, often sold by insurance companies, where you contribute funds or assets to an account, referred to as premiums. The trust distributes payments to a beneficiary on a regular basis. If you have a Grantor-Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT), the person establishing the trust is the Grantor, who receives the annuities from the trust.

The GRAT payments are typically made annually or near the anniversary of the funding date. However, they can be made any time within 105 days after the annuity date. Payments to the GRAT may not be made in advance, so consider your cash flow before determining how to fund a GRAT. For this to work, the grantor must receive assets equal in value to what they put into the GRAT. If the assets appreciate at a rate higher than the interest rate, it’s a win. At the end of the GRAT term, all appreciation in the assets is gifted to the named remainder beneficiaries, with no gift or estate tax.

Here is a step-by-step look at how a GRAT is set up.

  • First, an individual transfers assets into an irrevocable trust for a certain amount of time. It’s best if those assets have a high appreciation potential.
  • Two parts of the GRAT value are the annuity stream and the remainder interest. An estate planning attorney will know how to calculate these values.
  • Annuity payments are received by the grantor. The trust must produce a minimum return at least equal to the IRS Section 7520 interest rate, or the trust will use the principal to pay the annuity. In this case, the GRAT has failed, reverting the trust assets back to the grantor.
  • Once the final annuity payment is made, all remaining assets and asset growth are gifted to beneficiaries, if the GRAT returns meet the IRS Section 7520 interest rate requirements.

The best candidates for GRATS are those who face significant estate tax liabilities at death. An estate freeze can be achieved by shifting all or some of the appreciation to heirs through a GRAT.

A GRAT can also be used to permit an S-Corporation owner to preserve control of the business, while freezing the asset’s value and taking it out of the owner’s taxable estate. Caution is required here, because if the owner of the business dies during the term of the GRAT, the current stock value is returned to the owner’s estate and becomes taxable.

GRATs are used most often in transferring large amounts of money to beneficiaries, helping to reduce taxes. A GRAT allows you to give a beneficiary more than $16,000 without triggering a gift tax, which is especially useful for wealthy individuals with healthy estates.

There are some downsides to GRATs. When the trust term is over, remaining assets become the property of the beneficiaries. Setting a term must be done mindfully. If you have a long-term GRAT of 20 years, it is more likely that you may experience serious health challenges as you age, and possibly die before the term is over. If the assets in the GRAT depreciate below the IRS’s assumed return rate, any benefits of the GRAT are lost. If you would like to learn more about GRATs, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Entrepreneur (March 17, 2022) “Grantor Retained Annuity Trust Questions Answered”

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Gifting to your Loved Ones can reduce Taxes

Gifting to your Loved Ones can reduce Taxes

For wealthier Americans, gifting to your loved ones now can help you reduce or even avoid estate taxes when you die, say Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “Give Cash Now, Cut Your Estate Tax Later.”

Any gift may be subject to the federal gift tax, but you can give up to $16,000 per person during the year without having to file a gift tax return. If you are married, your spouse can also give $16,000 to the same people, upping the annual tax-free gift up to $32,000 per person.

Whatever you give away this year, up to the $16,000-per-recipient limit, will not be counted for estate tax purposes when you die.

If the current value of your estate is above the federal estate tax exclusion amount ($12.06 million for 2022), giving away money now could drop the value below the exclusion amount. The result would be no federal estate tax when you pass away.

There could also be state estate taxes to worry about. A dozen states and the District of Columbia have their own estate tax. Each currently has an exclusion amount that is far below the current federal standard (like just $1 million in Massachusetts and Oregon).

What happens if you are feeling extra generous and want to give more than $16,000 (or $32,000 per couple) to your fantastic 30-year-old niece this year?

You will be required to file a gift tax return (IRS Form 709), and the amount over $16,000 is potentially a taxable gift.

However, gifting to your loved ones can still reduce gift and estate taxes, if the total amount of taxable gifts so far over your lifetime is less than $12.06 million.

Therefore, if you are thinking of dropping a very large amount of cash in the hands of your niece (or whomever), it does not necessarily mean you will have to pay taxes on the gift.

For strategies about gift giving, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. If you would like to learn more about reducing your tax burden, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Kiplinger (Dec. 2, 2021) “Give Cash Now, Cut Your Estate Tax Later”

 

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Strategies to Reduce Taxes

Strategies to Reduce Taxes

With numerous bills still being considered by Congress, people are increasingly aware of the need to explore options for tax planning, charitable giving, estate planning and inheritances. Tax sensitive strategies for the near future are on everyone’s mind right now, according to the article “Inheritance, estate planning and charitable giving: 4 strategies to reduce taxes now” from Market Watch. These are the strategies to reduce taxes that you should be aware of.

Offsetting capital gains. Capital gains are the profits made from selling an asset which has appreciated in value since it was first acquired. These gains are taxed, although the tax rates on capital gains are lower than ordinary income taxes if the asset is owned for more than a year. Losses on assets reduce tax liability. This is why investors “harvest” their tax losses, to offset gains. The goal is to sell the depreciated asset and at the same time, to sell an appreciated asset.

Consider Roth IRA conversions. People used to assume they would be in a lower tax bracket upon retirement, providing an advantage for taking money from a traditional IRA or other retirement accounts. Income taxes are due on the withdrawals for traditional IRAs. However, if you retire and receive Social Security, pension income, dividends and interest payments, you may find yourself in the enviable position of having a similar income to when you were working. Good for the income, bad for the tax bite.

Converting an IRA into a Roth IRA is increasingly popular for people in this situation. Taxes must be paid, but they are paid when the funds are moved into a Roth IRA. Once in the Roth IRA account, the converted funds grow tax free and there are no further taxes on withdrawals after the IRA has been open for five years. You must be at least 59½ to do the conversion, and you do not have to do it all at once. However, in many cases, this makes the most sense.

Charitable giving has always been a good tax strategy. In the past, people would simply write a check to the organization they wished to support. Today, there are many different ways to support nonprofits, allowing for better tax advantages.

One of the most popular ways to give today is a DAF—Donor Advised Fund. These are third-party funds created for supporting charity. They work in a few different ways. Let’s say you have sold a business or inherited money and have a significant tax bill coming. By contributing funds to a DAF, you will get a tax break when you put the funds into a DAF. The DAF can hold the funds—they do not have to be contributed to charity, but as long as they are in the DAF account, you receive the tax benefit.

Another way to give to charity is through your IRA’s Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) by giving the minimum amount you are required to take from your IRA every year to the charity. Otherwise, your RMD is taxable as income. If you make a charitable donation using the RMD, you get the tax deduction, and the nonprofit gets a donation.

Giving while living is growing in popularity, as parents and grandparents can have pleasure of watching loved ones benefit from the impact of a gift. A person can give up to $16,000 to any other person every year, with no taxes due on the gift. The money is then out of the estate and the recipient receives the full amount of the gift.

All of these strategies to reduce taxes should be reviewed with your estate planning attorney with an eye to your overall estate plan, to ensure they work seamlessly to achieve your overall goals. If you would like to learn more about tax planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Market Watch (Feb. 18, 2022) “Inheritance, estate planning and charitable giving: 4 strategies to reduce taxes now”

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A trust provides more flexibility than a will

A Trust provides more flexibility than a Will

A trust is defined as a legal contract that lets an individual or entity (the trustee) hold assets on behalf of another person (the beneficiary). The assets in the trust can be cash, investments, physical assets like real estate, business interests and digital assets. There is no minimum amount of money needed to establish a trust. A trust provides more flexibility than a will.

US News’ recent article entitled “Trusts Explained” explains that trusts can be structured in a number of ways to instruct the way in which the assets are handled both during and after your lifetime. Trusts can reduce estate taxes and provide many other benefits.

Placing assets in a trust lets you know that they will be managed through your instructions, even if you’re unable to manage them yourself. Trusts also bypass the probate process. This lets your heirs get the trust assets faster than if they were transferred through a will.

The two main types of trusts are revocable (known as “living trusts”) and irrevocable trusts. A revocable trust allows the grantor to change the terms of the trust or dissolve the trust at any time. Revocable trusts avoid probate, but the assets in them are generally still considered part of your estate. That is because you retain control over them during your lifetime.

To totally remove the assets from your estate, you need an irrevocable trust. An irrevocable trust cannot be altered by the grantor after it’s been created. Therefore, if you’re the grantor, you can’t change the terms of the trust, such as the beneficiaries, or dissolve the trust after it has been established.

You also lose control over the assets you put into an irrevocable trust.

Trusts provide you with more flexibility to control your assets than a will does. With a trust, you can set more particular terms as to when your beneficiaries receive those assets. Another type of trust is created under a last will and testament and is known as a testamentary trust. Although the last will must be probated to create the testamentary trust, this trust can protect an inheritance from and for your heirs as you design.

Trusts are not a do-it-yourself proposition: ask for the expertise of an experienced estate planning attorney. If you would like to read more about trusts, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: US News (Feb. 7, 2022) “Trusts Explained”

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What are the Advantages of Modern Directed Trust?

What are the Advantages of Modern Directed Trust?

Many families use their estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax exemptions to fund a flexible modern trust for non-tax reasons, explains an article “Trust Planning in Unprecedented Times” from Wealth Management. Future uncertainty is one of the reasons, which seems keenly appropriate today. What are the advantages of a modern directed trust?

Passing family values as well as wealth to future generations is an important part of estate planning for many families. A directed trust can accomplish both goals, through the participation of family members and advisors in the directed trust’s distribution committee (DC). The DC decides how trust income and principal will be distributed and directs the administrative trustee accordingly.

Any distribution over and above the health, education, maintenance and support of beneficiaries needs to be considered from a tax-sensitive perspective, but the DC has the flexibility to make these decisions.

These modern directed trusts can also be created to allow for charitable purposes. Donations to charity from a non-charitable modern directed trusts lets the family express its social responsibility, while obtaining unlimited income tax deductions to the trust.

There are instances where knowledge of a trust is kept from beneficiaries or other family members, if they lack the financial maturity or don’t understand or comply with family values. Other reasons to keep a trust quiet are asset protection, divorce, ID theft and similar issues. In many modern trust states, the trust can remain quiet, even after the grantor has died or becomes incapacitated.

Modern directed trusts provide protection against divorce. Often the trust’s main protection is the use of a spendthrift provision, which prevents the assignment of a beneficiaries’ interests in an irrevocable trust before the interest is distributed. There are exceptions to the spendthrift clause, and alimony is one of them. In recent cases, courts have disregarded the spendthrift clause when exceptions are involved, especially in cases of divorce.

Litigation can be a problem for trusts. One of the advantages of a modern directed trust is the excellent asset protection it provides when trust discretionary interests are not defined as property or an enforcement right. Many trusts have clauses providing a court to award legal fees and costs to the winning party. The trustee may be reimbursed for attorney’s fees if the plaintiff loses, a significant discouragement for embarking on litigation against a modern trust.

COVID-19 has reframed how often people think about their mortality, which has fueled interest in creating trusts to protect family assets and heirlooms. A “purpose trust” doesn’t have beneficiaries, but is created to care, protect and preserve an asset, either for an extended period of time or even perpetuity. Assets typically placed in a purpose trust include gravesites, antiques, art, jewelry, royalties, digital assets, land, property, buildings and vacation homes.

The uncertain times in which we live call for unprecedented estate planning. Modern directed trusts are a way to preserve wealth across generations with flexibility. Regardless of what changes to federal estate, gift or generation skipping trusts may come in the future, trusts make sense. If you would like to learn more about asset protection, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Wealth Management (Jan. 10, 2022) “Trust Planning in Unprecedented Times”

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moving to a new state impacts estate planning

Moving to a New State Impacts Estate Planning

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., baby boomers have been speeding up their retirement plans. Many Americans have also been moving to new states. For retirees, the non-financial considerations often revolve around weather, proximity to grandchildren and access to quality healthcare and other services. It is important to understand how moving to a new state impacts estate planning.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “Thinking of Retiring and Moving? Consider the Financial Implications First” provides some considerations for retirees who may set off on a move.

  1. Income tax rates. Before moving to a new state, you should know how much income you’re likely to be generating in retirement. It’s equally essential to understand what type of income you’re going to generate. Your income as well as the type of income you receive could significantly influence your economic health as a retiree, after you make your move. Before moving to a new state, look into the tax code of your prospective new state. Many states have flat income tax rates, such as Massachusetts at 5%. The states that have no income tax include Alaska, Florida, Nevada, Texas, Washington, South Dakota and Wyoming. Other states that don’t have flat income tax rates may be attractive or unattractive, based on your level of income. Another important consideration is the tax treatment of Social Security income, pension income and retirement plan income. Some states treat this income just like any other source of income, while others offer preferential treatment to the income that retirees typically enjoy.
  2. Housing costs. The cost of housing varies dramatically from state to state and from city to city, so understand how your housing costs are likely to change. You should also consider the cost of buying a home, maintenance costs, insurance and property taxes. Property taxes may vary by state and also by county. Insurance costs can also vary.
  3. Sales taxes. Some states (New Hampshire, Oregon, Montana, Delaware and Alaska) have no sales taxes. However, most states have a sales tax of some kind, which generally adds to the cost of living. California has the highest sales tax, currently at 7.5%, then comes Tennessee, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Mississippi and Indiana, each with a sales tax of 7%. Many other places also have a county sales tax and a city sales tax. You should also research those taxes.
  4. The state’s financial health. Examine the health of the state pension systems where you are thinking about moving. The states with the highest level of unfunded pension debts include Connecticut, Illinois, Alaska, New Jersey and Hawaii. They each have unfunded state pensions at a level of more than 20% of their state GDP. If you’re thinking about moving to one of those states, you’re more apt to see tax increases in the future because of the huge financial obligations of these states.
  5. The overall cost of living. Examine your budget to see the extent to which your annual living expenses might increase or decrease in your new location because food, healthcare and transportation costs can vary by location. If your costs are going to go up, that should be all right, provided you have the financial resources to fund a larger expense budget. Be sure that you’ve accounted for the differences before you move.
  6. Estate planning considerations. If this is going to be your last move, it’s likely that the laws of your new state will apply to your estate after you die. Many states don’t have an estate or gift tax, which means your estate and gifts will only be subject to federal tax laws. However, a number of states, such as Maryland and Iowa, have a state estate tax.

You should talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about how moving to a new state impacts your estate and tax planning. If you would like to learn more about estate planning after a move, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Forbes (Nov. 30, 2021) “Thinking of Retiring and Moving? Consider the Financial Implications First”

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Non-Grantor Trusts can be useful

Non-Grantor Trusts can be Useful

Yahoo News’ recent article entitled “How a Non-Grantor Trust Works” says that a grantor trust lets the grantor (the person creating the trust) maintain certain powers of the trust. No matter the scope of the powers involved, what’s unique about grantor trusts is their tax treatment—the trust grantor is responsible for paying income tax on the trust assets. Any income the trust generates or receives is taxable to the grantor, who reports it on their personal tax return. Non-Grantor Trusts can be useful in a number of situations.

A non-grantor trust is any trust that isn’t a grantor trust. As a result, they can’t revoke or change the terms of the trust or make changes to trust beneficiaries. This lack of control means that a non-grantor trust is treated as a separate tax entity. Therefore, the trust itself must pay taxes on any income that’s received and file a tax return. A non-grantor trust can offer certain tax benefits to the trust grantor: (i) the grantor wouldn’t have to pay tax on the trust income, which may be a benefit where the grantor prefers to assume no further financial responsibility for the trust or its assets; and (ii) there can be positive tax implications, if the trust beneficiaries are in a lower tax bracket than the grantor. When trust income is distributed to beneficiaries in a lower tax bracket, it may be taxed at a lower rate than it would if the grantor were being taxed.

Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about a non-grantor trust if you run a business, since the Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction lets eligible taxpayers deduct up to 20% of qualified business income, as well as 20% of qualified real estate investment trust (REIT) dividends and qualified publicly traded partnership (PTP) income. If you own a business, and your income is above the allowed threshold to qualify for the QBI deduction, you could create a non-grantor trust as a work-around and divide the ownership of your business assets and its associated income. This may let you qualify for the QBI deduction.

However, there are some potential drawbacks with non-grantor trusts. Remember, the trust grantor lacks control of what happens with trust assets. It is also important to consider how any transactions between you as the grantor and the trust may be taxed. Certain interactions, including the movement of assets or income between the two, is taxable because you and the trust are two separate entities, which may mean taxes for one or the other.

In addition, an incomplete non-grantor (ING) trust is a type of trust that’s used for asset protection. It’s frequently used by those who live in states with high income tax rates or no state income tax. If you live in a state with high income tax rates, you could create an incomplete non-grantor trust and fund it using appreciated assets that have a low tax basis. If the trust is created in a state that has lower income tax rates or no state income tax, it may reduce the grantor’s tax bill when later selling those assets.

Incomplete non-grantor trusts can also allow you to transfer ownership of assets to the trust without paying gift tax. There are also the other tax benefits associated with non-grantor trusts.

Non-grantor trusts can be useful in a variety of circumstances. Ask an experienced estate planning attorney if one would be useful for your tax and estate planning situation. If you would like to learn more about trusts, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Yahoo News (Nov. 9, 2021) “How a Non-Grantor Trust Works”

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The Estate of The Union Season 2 premiere - Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered Part 2

The Estate of The Union Episode 12 is out now!

The Estate of The Union Episode 12 is out now!

This is the traditional time for giving. Giving to a cause and giving of ourselves.

The newest episode of The Estate of The Union focuses on the topic of charitable giving. Brad chats with Stacey Wedding, an expert on charitable giving, about how it can play a role in your planning strategy and help the people and organizations that have meaning in your life. They discuss both the How and the Why of giving – and Stacy will share tips on becoming a smarter giver too!

Laws concerning charitable giving can change, so be sure your gifting strategies are still appropriate for your estate. Charitable remainder trusts (CRTs) and Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) are options for people who are already charitably inclined to reduce estate taxes. Charitable Remainder Trust can reduce taxes for people who would be making gifts to support meaningful causes. DAFs can be created and funded by individuals or a family and receive a deduction that very same year.

In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insights into the confusing world of estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand.

It is Estate Planning Made Simple!

To learn more about Stacey Wedding and the Stacey Wedding Group, please visit her website:

 

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The Estate of The Union episode 12-Giving Yourself Away can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. Please click on the link below to listen to the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. You can also view this podcast on our YouTube page. The Estate of The Union Episode 12 out now. We hope you enjoy it.

Estate of The Union Episode 11-Millennials’ Mysteries Uncovered!

 

Texas Trust Law/Texas Trust Law focuses its practice exclusively in the area of wills, probate, estate planning, asset protection, and special needs planning. Brad Wiewel is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We provide estate planning services, asset protection planning, business planning, and retirement exit strategies.

Information in our blogs is very general in nature and should not be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Please feel free to contact Texas Trust Law to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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