Top 9 Considerations in Light of Administration’s Proposals to Change Estate and Gift Tax to Generate Revenue
Award-winning law firm McManus & Associates flags potential modifications to the law that should factor into one’s estate planning
NEW YORK, NY – President Obama and the Treasury Department recently released the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal and the associated “Green Book,” which details the Administration’s revenue proposals. With future policies that will be pushed now clear, McManus & Associates, a top-rated tax and estate planning law firm based in the Tri-State Area, today released the “Top 9 Considerations in Light of President Obama’s Proposed 2015 Budget.”
A treasure chest of information on estate planning, “Wills, Trusts, and Estates Prof Blog” is a member of the Law Professor Blogs Network sponsored by Wolters Kluwer and written by Texas Tech School of Law Professor Gerry Beyer. Via the go-to outlet, Beyer recently highlighted McManus & Associates’ latest educational conference call, “Top 10 Signposts to Guide Planning for Estates under $10MM.” The discussion sheds light on estate planning strategies that should be considered now following recent changes in federal and state law.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) delivered transfer tax certainty, large indexed transfer tax exemptions, and portability. Taking into account new norms, McManus & Associates, an estate planning law firm based in the Tri-State Area, today released a new installment in its free Educational Focus Series, “Top 10 Signposts to Guide Planning for Estates under $10MM.” During a conference call for clients, the firm’s Founding Principal and top AV-rated Attorney John O. McManus shed light on estate planning strategies that should be considered today following recent changes to federal and state laws.
Alexandra Talty, contributor for Forbes who covers personal finance and travel, recently spoke with McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus for tax tips that she could pass along to her readers. McManus’ thoughts appeared back-to-back in Talty’s two-day series that highlights “some shocking employee deductions as well as hitting some basics for first-time tax filers.”
Talty’s first article, “Surprising Tax Reimbursements for Employees,” addresses the importance of crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s come tax season. As emphasized by McManus in the story:
“Document, document, document with details, details, details. The IRS is looking at it as a smell test,” says John O. McManus, founding principal of McManus & Associates. “The longer you take to respond back to them [if you are audited], the more they think you are contriving or making it up. You have to be very reactive when they are calling on things. This demonstrates that you are always buttoned up.”
McManus advises, “Every year, presume you will be audited, so keep everything.”
Today’s article, Talty’s second day of tax coverage, focused on those “lucky enough to be self-employed or property owners.” Her piece, “Freelancing Tax Write-Offs You Might Be Missing,” offers interesting tips to bear in mind for tax day, such as how to write off cruises and conferences.
An educational vacation is a great way to kill two birds with one stone – but how can you be sure you’re covered if the IRS comes knocking? From McManus:
“I do believe it is essential to keep a copy of the agenda,” advises John O. McManus, founding principal of McManus & Associates. “Then the IRS can connect that it makes sense for you to be on the cruise for that purpose or that you needed to attended the seminar.”
Tax write-offs that help you see the world? Just say, “bon voyage,” pack your bags and go!
To read more helpful hints for self-employed Americans, check out Talty’s story in full here. And for tax planning help that transcends April 15th, give McManus & Associates a call at 908-898-0100.
In case you missed it, Bloomberg BNA in its Weekly Round-Up has a recap of John McManus’ recent article for the publication’s Weekly State Tax Report that provides an in-depth look at several of the estate and gift tax regimes cropping up across states. The story, “Weekly Round-Up: Will More States Climb Aboard the Gift Tax Bandwagon?” conveys that states are exploring strategies to create new revenue by expanding the footprint of taxation. Pointing to advice from McManus, the importance of staying informed about wealth transfer taxes is emphasized.
Previewing McManus’ 2,500-word expert article, the piece briefly outlines the trend with states’ enactment of gift taxes, including Connecticut and Minnesota. Connecticut was the first state to impose a state gift tax on lifetime gifts made to others in 2005 and, in 2011, the state’s governor signed into law a new budget that “dramatically curtailed the ability to make tax-free gifts by reducing the state’s lifetime gift exemption to $2 million and taxing up to 12 percent on aggregate lifetime gifts exceeding that amount.” Effective as of July 1, 2013, Minnesota passed a law that established its own state gift tax with a gifting exemption that is limited to $1 million, in addition to adopting rules subjecting certain nonresidents to estate taxation.
What should be of concern to readers? From the story:
It is a significant concern that other cash-strapped states may follow the lead of Connecticut and Minnesota, McManus says. Those states that do charge an estate or inheritance tax experience diminishing returns when the property and assets that their residents gift during their lifetimes are not a part of the estate upon death. Many politicians view the imposition of a gift tax as a safer revenue-generating innovation, because most of their constituents would be unaffected by such a levy, McManus said.
Navigating the terrain with life insurance trusts for child beneficiaries can be difficult, particularly when dealing with a special needs trusts for children that will likely never be on their own. Insure.com recently called upon McManus & Associates Founding Principal John O. McManus for guidance on trusts, “inherently complicated instruments” according to the story’s reporter Ed Leefeldt.
The article, straightforwardly titled “Life insurance trusts for child beneficiaries,” explains that life insurance companies often won’t pay the death benefit of a life insurance policy to a minor until he or she turns 18 unless a trustee or guardian has been named. Additionally, children may even face “estate taxes after a death, while the assets could be tied up in probate court” – trusts, however, ensure that life insurance money is “distributed according to your wishes, without delay.”
Trusts are also a useful tool for another reason. According to McManus:
A trust can also “protect children from themselves,” says John McManus, founder of an estate-planning law firm based in New York City. “If, at 18, a child gets it all, that could be a massively destructive injection of money,” he warns. Instead, the money can be earmarked for health, education or — with the help of a trustee — a lifetime trust.
The article suggests a revocable trust for those of average wealth, “which can be changed and/or revoked if necessary.” Of note: Sometimes you can simply write the name of the trustee on the beneficiary line of your life insurance policy, but always check with your life insurance company to make sure. For the wealthy, an irrevocable trust may be the best choice.
From the article:
This type of trust takes a bunch of assets, often including a life insurance policy, and “tosses them over the compound wall,” says attorney McManus. In effect, you create a separate corporation to manage them.
As explained by Leefeldt, an irrevocable trust needs a lawyer’s support; assets put in this trust can’t be taken out, regardless of how much one’s situation changes.
To learn how you can allow for changes in status when you create the original trust document (e.g., more kids, divorce, or a special needs child), check out the article in full. And to get help with the ins and outs of life insurance trusts for children and other loved ones, call 908-898-0100 to talk to the McManus & Associates team. Answers are a phone call away.
Gerry Beyer, Professor of Law at Texas Tech Univ. School of Law, recently shared on his blog financial tactics and maintenance items related to estate planning to apply before 2014. “Wills, Trusts, and Estates Prof Blog” is a member of the Law Professor Blogs Network sponsored by Wolters Kluwer, and the list of tactics and maintenance items originally came from McManus & Associates. Here are the 10 estate planning questions to ask yourself before 2013:
- Should I change my estate plan before laws change in 2014?
- Is your partnership validly maintained?
- If making gifts to loved ones, are you exceeding your exemption amount?
- Are you employing the most current estate planning strategies?
- Are you making the most of income tax deductions?
- Do the fiduciaries named in your estate planning documents still reflect your wishes?
- Are you using the best strategies when making year-end charitable gifts?
- Are your cash donations from an IRA to charity being properly made?
- Should you consider using a GRAT or a QPRT?
- How should you harvest capital gains and time long-term losses?
Don’t miss our next free educational conference call, which will be held this month! Contact us for details at 908-898-0100.
CPA Practice Advisor today published an article utilizing the guidance that McManus & Associates recently offered to clients via a conference call on next steps in light of the fiscal cliff deal. A quote from the firm’s founding Principal John O. McManus in the piece, titled “Estate planning after the fiscal cliff: Top 10 Steps”:
Many Americans will experience significant income tax increases as a result of the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal, but there is good news with respect to the estate tax. The newly established permanent estate tax gives wealth planners certainty that has been lacking for more than a decade – but what if Connecticut’s law encourages other states to also create a gift tax even lower than the federal exemption amount? The fact that they could do it retroactively is a real concern.
The story goes on to say:
The firm has offered the following tips:
Post-Fiscal Cliff Estate Planning: Top 10 Questions Answered in Light of the Deal
1. The new tax rates and exemption amounts are set. What can you expect to pay for estates over $5.25MM?
a. Federal estate tax rate moves up from 35% to 40% with the exemption amount now at $5.25MM, which will be adjusted annually for inflation.
b. The Lifetime Gift Exemption amount (the total that can be given during one’s lifetime, separate from the much smaller Annual Exemption gifts) has been unified with the Estate Tax Exemption amount at $5.25MM.
c. For income tax purposes, individuals earning in excess of $400K and couples filing jointly earning in excess of $450K will be taxed at 39.6%, which does not include the new 3.8% tax on investment income, capital gains and dividends that was enacted to fund Obamacare.
d. Anyone earning less than $400K will continue at the ‘Bush era’ tax rates. However, the payroll tax for Social Security has been restored from 4% to 6% so paychecks will be smaller.
e. Two limits on tax exemptions and deductions will be reinstated: Personal Exemption Phase-out will be set at $250K, and the Itemized Deduction Limitation kicks in at $300K.
2. What are the estate-tax “traps” to be wary of?
a. The exemption amounts for state estate taxes are much lower than the federal exemption amount. While no federal estate tax will be paid on an estate up to $5.25MM, a large state estate tax liability could be due in certain states.
b. For anyone owning Real Property in a state that is outside of one’s primary residence, one’s heirs will have to endure the arduous and often expensive process of out of state probate, or ancillary probate in addition to probate in one’s state of primary residence. Employing a Revocable Living Trust can eliminate the need to undertake probate in multiple states.
3. Lifetime gifts in excess of $2MM in CT are subject to tax; is this a warning for similar gift limitations in other states?
a. When the federal lifetime gift exemption amount jumped to $5MM, the state of Connecticut passed legislation to tax any gifts made over $2MM.
b. With the precedent set and with states looking for additional income, it is possible that others states will follow. Additionally, such laws can be made retroactive.
4. With the new permanency in the estate tax exemption, which taxpayers should make gifts over $5.25MM and pay gift tax (a strategy widely used for many prior generations)?
a. With some certainty that estate tax will not evaporate and the $5.25MM exemption amount will remain unchanged, individuals will now employ taxable gifts again.
b. Taxpayers whose net worth continues to grow in excess of $5.25MM will look to transfer assets and pay the gift tax.
c. Gifts made during one’s lifetime will enjoy a more favorable tax treatment, will suffer less shrinkage due to taxes, will avoid state estate taxes and will enjoy future growth free of any state and gift tax.
5. For estates below $5.25MM, who should employ trusts in their wills?
a. Trusts provide a greater level of asset protection, so one can be assured that, in the event of reversals in life including divorce (the single largest creditor attack on wealthy families), trust assets will be protected and can continue to grow tax-free and provide for heirs.
b. Flexibility in trusts even allows access to trust assets via a power to appoint and to remove trustees. Trusts protect the value and future growth of any discounted assets and can employ generation skipping tax free.
c. Trusts also allow for the minimization of state estate taxes.
6. What is meant by “spousal portability” and “unification” of the exemption amounts? Does this eliminate the need for certain planning?
a. Portability allows the surviving spouse to utilize any remaining portion of their deceased spouse’s Federal Estate Tax exemption amount. To elect portability, the executor handling the estate of the spouse who died must file an estate tax return (Internal Revenue Service Form 706), even if no tax is due. This return is due nine months after death.
b. Unification: The federal exemption amount for estate tax and lifetime gifting has been unified. That means both exemption amounts will be set at $5.25MM this year and adjust annually for inflation.
c. For tax efficiency purposes, married couples now enjoy the ability to pass to loved ones $10.5MM free of estate tax.
7. The Generation Skipping Tax Exemption amount is also set at $5.25MM; who should take advantage of it?
a. Assets in trust not used by loved ones can skip to the next generation tax-free. Such a skip would normally constitute a generation-skipping tax event, which imposes a 40% tax.
b. The GST exemption employed in trust can avoid taxes for transferees for 100 years or more, including all the growth in the portfolio.
c. The most widespread use of the GST exemption is for wealthy individuals whose children already enjoy enough assets, will be earning enough assets, or will inherit enough assets to assure the greatest likelihood the trust assets will not be spent during the children’s lifetimes.
8. Looking forward to March 2013 and the “debt ceiling” debates, what detrimental effect could such negotiations have on state estate taxes?
a. Regarding revenue to individual states, the high federal estate tax exemption amount will ultimately reduce the states’ future estate tax revenue due to lifetime gifts.
b. Previously, there was a state “pick-up” estate tax that allowed states to collect estate tax from the federal government without additionally charging the estate of the decedent. This was accomplished by giving taxpayers a dollar-for-dollar credit for any state estate taxes paid. The credit expired, which caused most pick-up taxes to automatically expire.
c. It is possible that states will construct new methods to make up for budget shortfalls, particularly if the debt ceiling debates carry on.
9. What are the trust and non-trust estate planning strategies that married and single persons should undertake in 2013?
a. Foundations: With increased taxes, gifts to charity have a greater tax-deductible value. Gifts to foundations allow full deduction in the year of the gift, whereas transfers out of foundation can be as small as 5% on an annual basis, allowing assets in the foundation to continue to grow.
b. Charitable trust: These enable one to make gifts to charity and receive immediate deductions. One can continue to receive income from the charitable gift for a period of time. Gifts can also be made where the charity gets a distribution each year and the loved ones receive the remainder.
c. Family mission planning: The family mission and preparing heirs for inheritances will be a critical to ensure that conflict is minimized and harmony maximized, to ensure motivation to grow the assets and to support charitable endeavors.
10. What critical gift tax consequences must be avoided for gifts made in 2012? When does the statute of limitations clock begin?
a. The final step to ensure the completion of any gift you have made to a trust is the timely filing of a gift tax return. Avoid professionals who do not have expertise in making significant gifts into trust.
b. Filing of a complete return starts the 3-year clock with the federal government. Once the statute of limitations has run, the IRS can no longer audit the return.
c. If a return is prepared but does not meet the specific adequate disclosure requirement, the statute of limitation does not begin to run.
To listen to the full recording of the conference call upon which the CPA Practice Advisor article is based click here.
The piece closes with another quote from McManus:
Several valuable opportunities emerged as part of the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations that pleasantly surprised the estate planning community, but we’re not completely out of the woods – the ‘debt ceiling’ debates, for example, are just around the corner. Keeping track of how the ever-evolving legal landscape impacts wealth preservation is a full-time job, but one that we’re here to help with.