Taxpayers can transfer substantial amounts free of gift taxes to their children or other donees each year through the proper use of this annual exclusion.
The statutory exclusion amount ($10,000) is adjusted for inflation annually, using 1997 as the base year. The amount of the exclusion for 2022 is $16,000, and for 2023 is $17,000.
The exclusion covers gifts an individual makes to each donee each year. Thus, in 2023, a taxpayer with three children can transfer a total of $51,000 to his or her children every year free of federal gift taxes. If the only gifts made during a year are excluded in this fashion, there is no need to file a federal gift tax return. If annual gifts exceed $17,000, the exclusion covers the first $17,000 and only the excess is taxable. Further, even taxable gifts may result in no gift tax liability thanks to the unified credit (discussed below). (Note, this discussion is not relevant to gifts made by a donor to his or her spouse because these gifts are gift tax-free under separate marital deduction rules.)
Gift-splitting by married taxpayers. If the donor of the gift is married, gifts to donees made during a year can be treated as split between the spouses, even if the cash or gift property is actually given to a donee by only one of them. By gift-splitting, therefore, up to $34,000 in 2023 can be transferred to each donee by a married couple because their two annual exclusions are available. Thus, for example, a married couple with three married children can transfer a total of $204,000 in 2023 to their children and the children’s spouses ($34,000 for each of six donees).
Where gift-splitting is involved, both spouses must consent to it. Consent should be indicated on the gift tax return (or returns) the spouses file. IRS prefers that both spouses indicate their consent on each return filed. (Because more than $17,000 is being transferred by a spouse, a gift tax return (or returns) will have to be filed, even if the $34,000 exclusion covers total gifts. Please contact me regarding the preparation of a gift tax return (or returns), if more than $17,000 is being given to a single donee in 2023.)
The “present interest” requirement. For a gift to qualify for the annual exclusion, it must be a gift of a “present interest.” That is, the donee’s enjoyment of the gift can’t be postponed into the future. For example, if you put cash into a trust and provide that donee A is to receive the income from it while A is alive and donee B is to receive the principal at A’s death, B’s interest is a “future interest.” Special valuation tables are consulted to determine the value of the separate interests you set up for each donee. The gift of the income interest qualifies for the annual exclusion because enjoyment of it is not deferred, so the first $17,000 (in 2023) of its total value will not be taxed. However, the gift of the other interest (called a “remainder” interest) is a taxable gift in its entirety.
Exception to present interest rule. If the donee of a gift is a minor and the terms of the trust provide that the income and property may be spent by or for the minor before he or she reaches age 21, and that any amount left is to go to the minor at age 21, then the annual exclusion is available (that is, the present interest rule will not apply). These arrangements (called Code Sec. 2503(c) trusts because of the section in the Internal Revenue Code that permits them) allow parents to set assets aside for future distribution to their children while taking advantage of the annual exclusion in the year the trust is set up.
“Unified” credit for taxable gifts. Even gifts that are not covered by the exclusion, and that are thus taxable, may not result in a tax liability. This is so because a tax credit wipes out the federal gift tax liability on the first taxable gifts that you make in your lifetime, up to $12,060,000 in 2022 and $12,920,000 in 2023. However, to the extent you use this credit against a gift tax liability, it reduces (or eliminates) the credit available for use against the federal estate tax at your death. Feel free to contact us if you wish to discuss this area further or have questions about related topics.
You might be able to dispose of appreciated real property without being taxed on the gain by exchanging it rather than selling it. You can defer tax on your gain through the “like-kind” exchange rules.
A like-kind exchange is any exchange (1) of real property held for investment or for productive use in your trade or business (relinquished property) for (2) like-kind investment real property or trade or business real property (replacement property). For these purposes, “like-kind” is very broadly defined and most real property is considered to be like-kind with other real property. However, neither the relinquished property nor the replacement property can be real property held primarily for sale. If you are unsure whether the property involved in your exchange is eligible for a tax -free like-kind exchange, please call and we can discuss the matter.
Assuming the exchange qualifies, here’s how the tax rules work:
If it’s a straight asset-for-asset exchange, you will not have to recognize any gain from the exchange. You will take the same “basis” (your cost for tax purposes) in the replacement property that you had in the relinquished property. Even if you do not have to recognize any gain on the exchange, you still have to report the exchange on Form 8824.
Frequently, however, the properties are not equal in value, so some cash or other (non-like-kind) property is tossed into the deal. This cash or other property is known as “boot.” If boot is involved, you will have to recognize your gain, but only up to the amount of boot you receive in the exchange. In these situations, the basis you get in the like-kind replacement property you receive is equal to the basis you had in the relinquished property you gave up reduced by the amount of boot you received but increased by the amount of any gain recognized.
Example. Ted exchanges land (investment property) with a basis of $100,000 for a building (investment property) valued at $120,000 plus $15,000 in cash. Ted’s realized gain on the exchange is $35,000: he received $135,000 in value for an asset with a basis of $100,000. However, since it’s a like-kind exchange, he only has to recognize $15,000 of his gain: the amount of cash (boot) he received. Ted’s basis in his new building (the replacement property) will be $100,000: his original basis in the relinquished property he gave up ($100,000) plus the $15,000 gain recognized, minus the $15,000 boot received.
Note that no matter how much boot is received, you will never recognize more than your actual (“realized”) gain on the exchange.
If the property you are exchanging is subject to debt from which you are being relieved, the amount of the debt is treated as boot. The theory is that if someone takes over your debt, it’s equivalent to his giving you cash. Of course, if the replacement property is also subject to debt, then you are only treated as receiving boot to the extent of your “net debt relief” (the amount by which the debt you become free of exceeds the debt you pick up). Like-kind exchanges are an excellent tax -deferred way to dispose of investment or trade or business assets. If you have additional questions or would like to discuss the topic further, please call.