A tried-and-true estate planning strategy is to make tax-free gifts to loved ones during life, because it reduces potential estate tax at death. There are many ways to make tax-free gifts, but one of the simplest is to take advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion with direct gifts. Even in a potentially changing estate tax environment, making annual exclusion gifts before year end can still be a good idea.
What is the annual exclusion?
The 2016 gift tax annual exclusion allows you to give up to $14,000 per recipient tax-free without using up any of your $5.45 million lifetime gift tax exemption. If you and your spouse “split” the gift, you can give $28,000 per recipient. The gifts are also generally excluded from the generation-skipping transfer tax, which typically applies to transfers to grandchildren and others more than one generation below you.
The gifted assets are removed from your taxable estate, which can be especially advantageous if you expect them to appreciate. That’s because the future appreciation can also avoid gift and estate taxes.
Making gifts in 2016
The exclusion is scheduled to remain at $14,000 ($28,000 for split gifts) in 2017. But that’s not a reason to skip making annual exclusion gifts this year. You need to use your 2016 exclusion by Dec. 31 or you’ll lose it.
The exclusion doesn’t carry from one year to the next. For example, if you don’t make an annual exclusion gift to your daughter this year, you can’t add $14,000 to your 2017 exclusion to make a $28,000 tax-free gift to her next year.
While the President-elect and Republicans in Congress have indicated that they want to repeal the estate tax, it’s uncertain exactly what tax law changes will be passed, since the Republicans don’t have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Plus, in some states there’s a state-level estate tax. So if you have a large estate, making 2016 annual exclusion gifts is generally still well worth considering.
We can help you determine how to make the most of your 2016 gift tax annual exclusion.
Giving away assets during your life will help reduce the size of your taxable estate, which is beneficial if you have a large estate that could be subject to estate taxes. For 2016, the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption is $5.45 million (twice that for married couples with proper estate planning strategies in place).
Even if your estate tax isn’t large enough for estate taxes to be a concern, there are income tax consequences to consider. Plus it’s possible the estate tax exemption could be reduced or your wealth could increase significantly in the future, and estate taxes could become a concern.
That’s why, no matter your current net worth, it’s important to choose gifts wisely. Consider both estate and income tax consequences and the economic aspects of any gifts you’d like to make.
Here are three strategies for tax-smart giving:
1. To minimize estate tax, gift property with the greatest future appreciation potential. You’ll remove that future appreciation from your taxable estate.
2. To minimize your beneficiary’s income tax, gift property that hasn’t appreciated significantly while you’ve owned it. The beneficiary can sell the property at a minimal income tax cost.
3. To minimize your own income tax, don’t gift property that’s declined in value. Instead, consider selling the property so you can take the tax loss. You can then gift the sale proceeds.
For more ideas on tax-smart giving strategies, contact us.
Is your tax return finished? If not, this year you have an extra day – or two – to file. April 18, 2016, is the due date to file your 2015 individual federal income tax return and pay any balance due. If you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you have until Tuesday, April 19, to file and pay.
Here’s why. The normal due date – Friday, April 15 – is Emancipation Day. That’s a holiday in the District of Columbia, so the tax filing deadline shifts to Monday, April 18. However, Monday, April 18, is also a holiday (Patriots Day) in Maine and Massachusetts. That means if you live in either of those states, your deadline moves to April 19. The extended due dates apply whether you file electronically or on paper.
Here are other major mid-April deadlines.
● The above due dates also apply to filing an automatic extension for your 2015 individual income tax return if you can’t file by the deadline. You don’t need to explain to the IRS why you need more time and the automatic extension gives you until October 17, 2016, to file your return. An extension does not, generally, give you more time to pay taxes you still owe. To avoid penalty and interest charges, taxes must be paid by the April deadline.
● Filing 2015 partnership returns for calendar year partnerships.
● Filing 2015 income tax returns for calendar year trusts and estates.
● Filing 2015 annual gift tax returns.
● Making 2015 IRA contributions.
● Paying the first quarterly installment of 2016 individual estimated tax.
● Amending 2012 individual tax returns (unless the 2012 return had a filing extension).
● Original filing of a 2012 individual income tax return to claim a refund of taxes. If you have tax refunds due for prior years, the refund is lost unless you file a return to claim it.
As a business owner, monitoring operations and dealing with everyday problems no doubt takes up the bulk of your day. But carving out time for a comprehensive review can benefit your business. Here are 5 key areas to consider.
Insurance coverage. Automatic renewal may appear to be a time-saver. But you might be missing out on necessary updates and the opportunity to revise your coverage. Sit down with your insurance agent and discuss your business operations, focusing on risks from new ventures or changes in laws. Make sure you have suitable liability coverage.
Tax Strategy. A month after you file your tax return, make an appointment with your tax advisor. Go over your return together and identify opportunities for tax savings. Question everything, starting with whether you’re using the right form of business entity. Ask about recent changes in the tax code and how they might benefit your business. Make your advisor a partner in your business strategy.
Succession planning. Have a specific plan for each key managerial position, including yours. Will you promote from within or recruit externally in the case of an unexpected vacancy? Which managers can be cross-trained to keep your business operating during the short-term absence of another employee?
Banking relationships. Schedule a meeting with your controller or chief financial officer to go over your cash balances and banking relationships. Then both of you meet with your banker. Address service concerns or problems that arose during the year. Look for ways to reduce idle cash, boost interest earned, and improve cash flows.
Personal Estate Planning. Your company is likely a significant part of your estate. A good estate plan is essential if you hope to pass it on to your heirs. But your company, your personal circumstances, and the tax laws are continually changing. Make sure your plans are current.
Contact us for more suggestions. We can assist you in securing your business’s long-term success.
Are you planning to itemize on your 2015 federal income tax return? If so, you can claim a deduction for taxes paid. According to IRS statistics, taxes are the most frequently claimed itemized deduction, as well as the largest. But what kind of taxes can you deduct on your personal return?
State and local income taxes or general sales tax. You can choose whichever gives you the most benefit.
Real estate taxes. Deductions include taxes you pay on your home or other real property you own (including property owned in a foreign country). Remember to check closing statements when you buy or sell property. You can claim the portion of current real estate taxes you’re responsible for. However, if you agree to pay delinquent taxes the seller owed at the time of closing, that expense is considered part of your basis in the property.
Personal property taxes. These taxes are imposed annually on the value of property other than real estate. Certain motor vehicle registration fees fit this description.
Foreign income taxes. Caution: Instead of deducting these taxes, you have the option of taking a credit, which will reduce your tax bill dollar-for-dollar and may offer more benefit.
Federal estate tax. If you inherit certain assets and are required to report the income from those assets on your personal return, you may be able to deduct a portion of the federal estate tax paid.
Some taxes, such as self-employment taxes, are deductible elsewhere on your return. Other taxes are not deductible at all. Examples include marriage licenses, gift taxes, and Medicare taxes (including the 3.8% net investment income tax). Feel free to contact us if you have questions about the deductibility of a tax you paid during the year, or if you received a refund of a tax you deducted in a prior year.