Despite the various proposals to lower federal transfer tax (estate, gift and GST taxes) exemptions and increase the tax rates, none of them were enacted in 2021.
It's possible that some of these proposals may be enacted in 2022, but for now, they are moot. In the meantime, exemptions have increased for inflation, giving taxpayers a chance to lock in rates and exemptions including the Gift Tax Exemption before the federal estate tax sunsets to $5 million and some “change” for inflation. That's the advice from a recent article, “2022 Transfer Tax Update,” from Forbes.
For now, the increased transfer tax exemptions are:
- In 2022, $12,060,000 federal estate tax exemption, with a 40% top federal estate tax rate.
- $12,060,000 GST tax exemption and a 40% top federal GST tax rate.
- The lifetime gift tax exemption is now $12,060,000; with a 40% top federal gift tax rate.
- The annual gift tax exclusion for 2022 increases to $16,000.
The IRS and the Treasury Department have both stated they will not attempt any claw-backs from gifts given between 2018—2025 for a taxpayer who dies in 2026 or beyond when the exemptions return to the $5 million mark under the 2012 Act.
The opportunity to take advantage of these exemptions is now. A variety of estate planning techniques are still available. Shifting income-producing assets to individuals in lower income tax brackets or who live in states with no or lower income taxes may be appropriate.
Anyone who may have used all or most of their prior exemptions may want to consider making additional lifetime gifts in 2022. Let's say you used all of your $11.7 million exemption in 2021. You may now gift an additional $360,000 in 2022.
Does this mean your estate plan needs to be revised? If you're like most people, your estate plan is relatively flexible. However, if you haven't reviewed or revised your estate plan in two or three years, it's time to make an appointment with your estate planning attorney. There have been many changes in the law in recent years, and chances are, changes in your life since the last time your plan was reviewed.
The GST tax is not portable on the death of a spouse. Certain states (including New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts) don't permit estate tax exemption portability. A bypass trust may be the solution.
The gift tax annual exclusion amount has increased to $16,000 for individuals ($32,000 by married couples). It may be better to gift securities of interests in privately held companies or other family entities. Assets gifted now may be worth less than they were previously, and if they increase in the future, you've created a built-in discount.
Talk with your estate planning attorney to make the most out of these tax situations before they go away.
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Reference: Forbes (Jan. 4, 2022) “2022 Transfer Tax Update”