With the holidays and year-end approaching, you might be considering making gifts of stock or cash to family members and other loved ones. By using your gift tax annual exclusion, those gifts can reduce the size of your taxable estate. For 2022, the annual exclusion is $16,000. The exclusion will increase to $17,000 for 2023.
How it works
The annual exclusion applies to gifts on a per recipient, per year, basis. Therefore, a taxpayer with three children can transfer a total of $48,000 to them in 2022 free of federal gift taxes and another $51,000 gift-tax-free in 2023.
If these are the only gifts made in the applicable year, there’s no need to file a federal gift tax return. If an annual gift exceeds the exclusion, only the excess amount is a taxable gift, though it may not result in tax liability. (See “More ways to save gift tax,” below.)
However, keep in mind that the exclusion doesn’t carry over from year to year. For example, if you don’t make an annual exclusion gift to someone this year, you can’t add $16,000 to your 2023 annual exclusion and make a $33,000 tax-free gift to that person next year.
Married taxpayers and gift splitting
If you’re married, a gift can be treated as split between you and your spouse, even if only one of you gives the gift. That means, by gift splitting, a married couple can use their two exclusions to give a recipient up to $32,000 in 2022 and $34,000 in 2023. For example, in 2022 a married couple with three married children can transfer a total of $192,000 to their children and the children’s spouses ($32,000 for each of six recipients).
Because more than the exclusion amount is being transferred by a spouse, a gift tax return (or returns) will have to be filed, even if the spouses’ combined exclusion covers the total gift. If gift splitting is involved, both spouses must consent to it and that consent should be indicated on each gift tax return (or returns) that each spouse files.
Speaking of married taxpayers, gifts from one spouse to the other aren’t covered here, because these gifts are free of gift tax under separate marital deduction rules, as long as the recipient spouse is a U.S citizen.
More ways to save gift tax
Gifts that are taxable because they aren’t covered by the annual exclusion may still not result in a tax liability. This is because the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption wipes out the federal gift tax liability on taxable gifts up to a cumulative $12.06 million for 2022 (increasing to $12.92 million for 2023). The amount of the exemption you use during your life reduces or eliminates the exemption available for federal estate tax purposes upon your death.
Gifts made directly to an educational institution to pay tuition or to a health care provider to pay for medical expenses on behalf of someone else do not count towards the exclusion. For example, you can pay $20,000 directly to your grandson’s college for his tuition this year, plus still give him a tax-free direct cash gift of up to $16,000.
Why 2022 gifts make sense
Annual exclusion gifts reduce the taxable value of your estate. While the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption amount is historically high right now, it’s scheduled to fall in 2026 to around $7 or $8 million, depending on inflation. Congress could act to extend today’s higher exemption or could change estate tax law in other ways. Making large tax-free gifts now could help insulate you against any later reduction in the gift and estate tax exemption.
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Source: Thomson Reuters