Once again, it is that time of year, the time when families get together to exchange gifts, and spend quality time together. During this season, people do not ordinarily consider their taxes. After all, the middle of winter is almost as far away from April 15th as someone can get. Nevertheless, the gifts people give during this time of year can have a long-term impact on their tax situation thanks to the gift tax. Gift giving during a person's life is often a good way for someone to avoid estate taxes, so careful planning around this time of year can leave someone's family in a much better financial position.
What Gift Givers Should Know
Gift givers are the ones most on the hook for understanding the tax law when dealing with gifts. The most important thing for gift givers to understand is the fact that they are working under two separate but related gift giving limits. The first limit is known as the annual gift tax exclusion. This is the amount per year that any gift giver may give to any single person. The IRS has set that exclusion at $14,000 for both 2014 and 2015. If a person goes over that limit, then he or she must file a gift tax return. However, this does not necessarily mean that he or she must pay any taxes on the gift.
Filing a gift tax return triggers the second limit that gift givers are working under, the lifetime exemption. The lifetime exemption is the total amount of money that gift givers are allowed to give away over their yearly exemption before they start to owe taxes. The current lifetime exemption is $5.34 million. This means that if a person gives away $20,000 to a single person in a single year, then he or she must subtract $6,000 from his or her lifetime exemption. This is especially important because the lifetime exemption never resets and applies to estate taxes as well. For example, if a person gives away enough during his or her lifetime that he or she has used up $2.34 million of his or her lifetime exemption, then only the first $3 million of his or her estate's distributions are tax free. The rest may be subject to a tax rate of up to 40 percent.
What Receivers Should Know
Gift receivers have a much simpler set of rules to work under. Ordinarily, the gift giver pays the gift tax, and the receiver does not have to worry. If the person giving the gift does not pay the tax, then the IRS may come after the receiver, but usually people giving money in excess of the annual exclusion can also cover the gift tax. Additionally, people receiving five or six figure sums from foreign sources may also have to report that.
Tax day may come but once a year, but tax planning is a year round problem. If you have questions about how best to manage your estate, contact an Arlington Heights estate planning attorney today. The law firm of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC serves clients in many northwest suburbs including Palatine, Schaumburg, Barrington, Inverness, Mount Prospect, Long Grove, Kenilworth, Riverwood, and South Barrington.
About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.