Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Charitable IRA Rollover Gift

For clients over age 70 and 1/2 Congress snuck in a bit of charitable opportunity in the new 2010 Tax bill that allows one to make gifts directly from one's IRA to your favorite qualified public charity on a tax free basis. The ability to do this ends on January 31, 2011. The gift cannot exceed $100,000.

The Charitable IRA Rollover gift is made directly from the IRA custodian to the charitable organization. The gift is completely tax-free from the IRA to the charity. The gift is not included in the donor's income and the donor receives no income tax charitable contribution deduction for the gift. The completely tax-free transfer provides the equivalent of a 100% income tax charitable deduction for the gift. More importantly, the Charitable IRA Rollover gift does not reduce the donor's ability to make other charitable gifts that are subject to the income tax charitable contribution deduction rules.

Anyone needing more information should contact their tax advisor to take advantage of this opportunity before January 31, 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Year End Fire Sale on Generation Skipping Transfers for 2010

Grandparents wishing to make gifts to grandchildren have been handed an opportunity by the new 2010 Tax Act to make gifts, directly or in trust, without incurring any Generation Skipping Transfer ("GST") tax in this calendar year. However, a grandparent would still pay 35% gift tax on a grandchild's gifts in excess of the $1 million gift tax exemption. In 2011 and 2012, the tax rate on GST transfers will be 35% with a $5 million exemption.

The decision to pull the trigger on this opportunity is effectively over by Thursday as most financial institutions will be closed on Friday for the New Year Holiday. Anyone who wishes to consider this should contact their tax advisors ASAP.

Friday, December 17, 2010

It is now up to the President

Last night while most of us were sleeping, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the "The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010" [hereinafter the "2010 Act"] and sent it off to the President to sign on December 17, 2010. This band aid of legislation is only effective for two years. Yes, we will be right back where we are today looking at $1M dollar estate tax exemptions and a 55% estate tax rate all over again in December 2012! What a way to run a railroad? Assuming that President Obama signs this new law, there are a variety of new provisions which we will have to incorporate into our estate planning practice. Here are a few of the highlights:

1. Estate Tax for 2010: Exclusion Amount $5M with a maximum tax rate of 35% and the option to elect carryover tax basis instead of estate tax treatment. The Gift Tax exclusion amount will remain at $1,000,000 (no change) and at a 35% gift tax rate (no change).

2. Estate Tax for 2011-2012: Exclusion Amount $5M with a maximum estate tax rate of 35%. The Gift Tax exclusion amount will increase to $5M and maintain a rate of 35% (no change).

3. One of the new features is the use of a deceased spouse's exemption amount ("portability") for spouses who die in 2011 and 2012. In essence, married couples will get the use of a $10M exemption under certain circumstances.

There is much to be studied and absorbed from this legislation. We will bring you more details ahead in the coming days.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Year End Tax Reform Controversy Contines

On Monday, December 6, President Obama announced that he had reached a compromise with the Republican Senators for a two year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts. The projected estate tax exemption would be $5 million per citizen with an effective tax rate of 35% over and above $5 million ( down from the scheduled $1 million exemption and a 55% tax rate scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2011). In exchange the unemployment insurance benefits (including a 2% reduction in payroll tax, from 6.2% to 4.2%), would become effective in 2011.

Almost immediately this compromise drew fire from both sides of the aisle. For example, Republicans were uneasy awaiting details of the plan. At the same time some Democrats have announced their opposition to the passage of this legislation. This is not a done deal.

All we can suggest is that clients stay tuned for the latest developments. No doubt a $5 million dollar exemption would be welcome news to 99% of all Americans who would not be bothered with Federal Estate Taxes. But, if Congress fails to act, those Americans with estates over 1 million dollars may wish to avail themselves of some gift giving opportunities in 2010. The shopping days in December are rapidly coming to a close.