As the window for making large-scale gifts shrinks each day, many individuals and families will be encouraged by their attorneys and other advisers to consider taking advantage of the 2012 Gift Tax Planning Opportunity. While this unique event could be a windfall for many people, there are certain situations where utilizing the current gift tax exemption and gift tax rates are most beneficial to the donors.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the ‘best fits’ for making a 2012 Gift:
1) Individuals with a taxable estate at or above the current Federal Estate Tax Exemption-The current federal estate tax exemption, as with the gift tax exemption, is $5.12 million. And just as the gift tax exemption will expire on December 31st, the federal estate tax exemption will reduce to $1 million 2013.
Given the likelihood that the estate tax exemption will be reduced, individuals who may have a taxable estate if they die in 2012 would be wise to consider gifting a portion of their estate before year’s end. By doing so, they can increase the portion of their estate that passes to their heirs free of federal estate tax.
2) Individuals with a taxable estate at or above their current State Estate Tax Exemption-Residents of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York face lower estate tax exemptions than residents of most other states in the U.S. Even those individuals whose estates will likely pass free of federal estate tax could have a state estate tax imposed which would similarly reduce the value of the property passing to their heirs. Making a 2012 Gift is especially useful in reducing potential state estate tax exposure because none of the tri-state area states impose a state specific gift tax.
3) Family Business owners looking to transition their businesses to their family-One of the many reasons that business succession planning fails is that the incoming owners may be unable to pay the current owners the full value of the companies they are purchasing. In a family business, a senior family member willing to transfer some or all of their business to their successors as a gift can avoid this hurdle while assuring that the business continues uninterrupted. For those concerned about a loss of income or not receiving sufficient assets to live off of, using a planning technique like a GRAT or a sale to a defective grantor trust may allow the senior family member to be more generous with their gifting.
4) Real Estate Owners-In some areas of the country, real estate have begun to rebound. Nevertheless, the values are still significantly lower than they were prior to the 2008 Financial Crisis. Gifting a second home or investment property this year could be more tax efficient than transferring it when values increase. In addition, individuals interested in gifting their primary residence can utilize a technique known as a qualified personal residence trust (QPRT) to transfer ownership of the property while retaining the right to live in the residence for a set period of years.
5) Individuals with highly appreciating or income producing property-Property likely to increase in value over the next few years can either be gifted outright or to a trust using today’s values. This allows the beneficiary of the gift to receive the full benefit of the appreciation while reducing the donor’s taxable estate. Alternatively, by utilizing planning techniques like a GRAT or IDGT, the donor can freeze the value of their taxable estate while also providing their beneficiaries with a significant long-term benefit. This is also true of property that produces significant income.
6) Same Sex Married Couples and Domestic Partners-Without the benefit of a marital deduction at the federal level (New York same sex married couples) or at both state and federal levels (domestic partners), non-traditional couples are at a distinct transfer tax disadvantage. In addition, whereas gifts between married couples are consider non-taxable events, gifts between same sex married couples and domestic partners are. Fully utilizing the 2012 Gift opportunity may be a unique opportunity for these couples to make tax-free gifts to one and other.
7) Individuals who have made intra-family loans-The current low interest rate environment have encouraged many family members to make loans to their junior family members. However, if the junior family member does not pay back the principal of these loans and interest, the lender is deemed to have made a gift. If the lender does not need or want the money back, a 2012 Gift can be used to forgive a portion or the entire loan amount.
Other individuals and situations may also be appropriate for 2012 Gifts. Tomorrow, I will go over several planning techniques that can be used to maximize the benefit of making a 2012 Gift.
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