As we head into 2016, there are various tax issues of which to be aware and are related to estate planning and real estate debt. These issues include an extension of an existing law, as well as new requirements for 2016.
Consistent Basis Reporting
Estate tax is a tax levied when a person transfers property upon his or her death. It is calculated by using the fair market value of everything the deceased person owns or has an interest in. The total value is called the “Gross Estate.” Certain deductions may be taken from the Gross Estate to arrive at the person’s “Taxable Estate.” Finally, the value of lifetime taxable gifts is added to the Taxable Estate and the tax is computed. Most estates do not require the filing of an estate tax return. However, for 2016, a filing is required for estates that have combined gross assets and prior taxable gifts that exceed $5,450,000.
Under §6035 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), the executor of an estate who is required to file an estate tax return must provide to anyone who acquires an interest in the property of the decedent’s gross estate a statement that identifies the value of each interest in such property as reported on the estate tax return. This statement must also be filed with the IRS.
The basis of certain property acquired from a decedent cannot exceed the value of the property as determined for federal estate tax purposes. If the value has not been determined, pursuant to the IRC, the basis ceiling is set at the value of the property as reported on the statement made under §6035. These new requirements are intended to help with ensuring there is consistent basis reporting between estates and beneficiaries receiving property from decedents. The statement required under §6035 is made on Form 8971, which must be filed at the earlier of either 30 days after the estate tax return under §6018 must be filed or 30 days after the estate tax return is actually filed.
Ordinarily, gross income includes income realized when a person with debt discharges that indebtedness. However, a provision under the Tax Relief Extension Act has been extended to 2016 by amending IRC §108. This provision allows individuals to exclude from gross income discharges of qualified principal residence debt. Qualified principal residence debt is acquisition debt incurred in connection with a taxpayer’s principal residence. This is typically indebtedness related to the purchase, construction, or substantial improvement of a principal residence where the debt is secured by the residence. It may also include refinancing indebtedness.
This exclusion was extended because it is believed that people restructuring acquisition debt on their home, or who are losing their home due to foreclosure probably, do not have sufficient cash to pay taxes on the discharged debt in the event it were considered income. Additionally, the extension was considered necessary for individuals who entered into a discharge agreement while the exclusion was allowed, but that had not completed the discharge yet. By extending the exclusion into 2016, those agreements can still enjoy the advantage of exclusion. For more information related to any of these issues, please speak with an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney today. Our firm serves the communities of Inverness, Palatine, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Long Grove, Kenilworth, Barrington, South Barrington, Riverwoods, and Mount Prospect.
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.