Internal Revenue Bulletin 2017-11: Employee Plans

DSC00052Here is Internal Revenue Bulletin 2017-11 with information regarding the notice extending the period for an employer that provides a qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement (QSEHRA) to furnish an original written notice to its eligile employees.  Should you have any questions or concerns regarding this information, please feel free to call us at 404-255-7400 or email us at info@hoffmanestatelaw.com.

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What the New Tax Law Means to You

As you probably know, Congress avoided the so-called fiscal cliff by passing – at the 12th hour –the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (the 2012 Tax Act), signed into law by the President on January 2, 2013. The 2012 Tax Act makes several important revisions to the tax code that will affect estate planning for the foreseeable future. What follows is a brief description of some of these revisions – and their impact:

  • The federal gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer tax provisions were made permanent as of December 31, 2012. This is great news for all Americans; for more than ten years, we have been planning with uncertainty under legislation that contained built in expiration dates. And while “permanent” in Washington only means that this is the law until Congress decides to change it, at least we now have more certainty with which to plan.
  • The federal gift and estate tax exemptions will remain at $5 million per person, adjusted annually for inflation. In 2012, the exemption (with the adjustment) was $5,120,000. The amount for 2013 is expected to be $5,250,000. This means that the opportunity to transfer large amounts during lifetime or at death remains. So if you did not take advantage of this in 2011 or 2012, you can still do so – and there are advantages to doing so sooner rather than later. Also, with the amount tied to inflation, you can expect to be able to transfer even more each year in the future.
  • The generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption also remains at the same level as the gift and estate tax exemption ($5 million, adjusted for inflation). This tax, which is in addition to the federal estate tax, is imposed on amounts that are transferred (by gift or at your death) to grandchildren and others who are more than 37.5 years younger than you; in other words, transfers that “skip” a generation. Having this exemption be “permanent” allows you to take advantage of planning that will greatly benefit future generations.
  • Married couples can take advantage of these higher exemptions and, with proper planning, transfer up to $10+ million through lifetime gifting and at death.
  • The tax rate on estates larger than the exempt amounts increased from 35% to 40%.
  • The “portability” provision was also made permanent. This allows the unused exemption of the first spouse to die to transfer to the surviving spouse, without having to set up a trust specifically for this purpose. However, there are still many benefits to proper estate planning using trusts, especially for those who want to ensure that their estate tax exemption will be fully utilized by the surviving spouse.
  • Separate from the new tax law, the amount for annual tax-free gifts has increased from $13,000 to $14,000, meaning you can give up to $14,000 per beneficiary, per year ($28,000 for a married couple) free of federal gift,  estate and GST tax – in addition to the $5 million gift, estate, and GST tax exemptions. By making annual tax-free transfers while you are alive, you can transfer significant wealth to your children, grandchildren and other beneficiaries, thereby reducing your taxable estate and removing future appreciation on assets you transfer. And, you can significantly enhance this lifetime giving strategy by transferring interests in a limited liability company or similar entity because these assets have a reduced value for transfer tax purposes, allowing you to transfer more free of tax.  Gifting to Family Trusts allows the tremendous advantage of gifting to one destination, while using the annual gift exclusions for all of your descendants.

For most Americans, the 2012 Tax Act has removed the emphasis on planning for worst case scenarios and put it back on the real reasons we need to do estate planning: taking care of ourselves and our families the way we want. This includes:

  • Protecting you, your family, and your assets in the event of incapacity;
  • Ensuring your assets are distributed the way you want;
  • Protecting your legacy from irresponsible spending, a child’s creditors, and from being part of a child’s divorce proceedings;
  • Providing for a loved one with special needs without losing valuable government benefits; and
  • Helping protect assets from creditors and frivolous lawsuits; and from estate depletion to fund nursing home costs.

For those with estates less than the $5.25 million exemption amount, trusts should still provide much valued asset protection.  However, those who are less concerned about asset protection may want to review options for unwinding previous transactions to the extent possible and, at a minimum, review their estate plan to ensure proper income tax planning (see below).

For those with larger estates, ample opportunities remain to transfer large amounts tax free to future generations, but it is critical that professional planning begins as soon as possible. With Congress looking for more ways to increase revenue, many reliable estate planning strategies may soon be restricted or eliminated.   REVENUE RAISING PROPOSALS INCLUDE 1) LIMITING THE BENEFITS OF GRANTOR TRUSTS, 2) LIMITING THE DURATION OF ALLOCATION OF GST EXEMPTION, 3) IMPOSING A MINIMUM 10 YEAR TERM FOR GRANTOR RETAINED ANNUITY TRUSTS (“GRATS”), AND 4) REDUCING THE AVAILABILITY OF ENTITY BASED VALUATION DISCOUNTS.  These are all tools that can reduce your estate tax exposure but that may not be available much longer.  Thus, it is best to put these strategies into place now so that they are more likely to be grandfathered from future law changes.

Further, as is well publicized, the 2012 Tax Act included several income tax rate increases on those earning more than $400,000 ($450,000 for married couples filing jointly).  Combined with the two additional income tax rate increases resulting from the healthcare bill, income tax planning for individuals is obviously now more important than ever.

What hasn’t been as publicized is that trusts (only those trusts not taxed as grantor trusts) and estates will be subject to these new taxes and higher tax rates on income above $11,950.   Proper income tax/distribution planning for trusts and estates will be essential going forward to minimize these burdensome tax increases.

Income tax basis planning will also be more important.  Many trusts hold highly appreciated, low tax basis assets. Reverse DGT transactions – purchasing low basis assets back from grantor trusts – can be used to obtain a step up in basis at death.  Trusts may be able to be amended and/or restated to allow a Trust Protector to identify low basis assets and take certain actions that would cause them to get a step up in tax basis at your death.   For assets not already in trust, Alaska Community Property Trusts can be utilized to get a double step up in tax basis at both spouse’s deaths.

The good news is that if you have been sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see what Congress would do, the wait is over.  We have increased certainty with “permanent” laws and you can have some comfort that the rules won’t drastically shift from year to year.  Unfortunately, for those of you with larger estates, planning techniques that can be utilized to reduce estate tax exposure are still on the chopping block – so don’t wait to plan.  For all clients, income tax planning, including income tax basis planning, should be a focus this year.  As always, the ultimate goals of estate planning, including protecting family assets and providing for loved ones, do not change.  Make sure you have a good plan to meet these goals. Schedule an appointment today by calling us at (404) 255-7400.

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose.  The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only.  Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services.  Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

Fiscal Cliff Avoidance Legislation

Pulling back from the “fiscal cliff” at the 13th hour, Congress on Tuesday preserved most of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts and extended many other lapsed tax provisions.
Shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that had been heralded and, in some quarters, groused about throughout the preceding day. By a vote of 89 to 8, the chamber approved the American Taxpayer Relief Act, H.R. 8, which embodied an agreement that had been hammered out on Sunday and Monday between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The House of Representatives approved the bill by a vote of 257–167 late on Tuesday evening, after plans to amend the bill to include spending cuts were abandoned. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

“The AICPA is pleased that Congress has reached an agreement,” said Edward Karl, vice president–Tax for the AICPA. “The uncertainty of the tax law has unnecessarily impeded the long-term tax and cash flow planning for businesses and prevented taxpayers from making informed decisions. The agreement should also allow the IRS and commercial software vendors to revise or issue new tax forms and update software, and allow tax season to begin with minimal delay.”

With some modifications targeting the wealthiest Americans with higher taxes, the act permanently extends provisions of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, P.L. 107-16 (EGTRRA), and Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, P.L. 108-27 (JGTRRA). It also permanently takes care of Congress’s perennial job of “patching” the alternative minimum tax (AMT). It temporarily extends many other tax provisions that had lapsed at midnight on Dec. 31 and others that had expired a year earlier.

The act’s nontax features include one-year extensions of emergency unemployment insurance and agricultural programs and yet another “doc fix” postponement of automatic cuts in Medicare payments to physicians. In addition, it delays until March a broad range of automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration that otherwise would have begun this month.
Among the tax items not addressed by the act was the temporary lower 4.2% rate for employees’ portion of the Social Security payroll tax, which was not extended and has reverted to 6.2%.
The legislation would allow tax rates to rise on the nation’s highest earners while also extending dozens of tax cuts for individuals and businesses. Major provisions of the bill include:

  • Raises the top tax rate to 39.6% for married couples earning $450,000; single taxpayers earning $400,000. These amounts will be indexed for inflation.
  • Raises long-term capital gains and qualifying dividends tax rate to 20% (from 15%) for taxpayers in the 39.6% tax bracket for regular and alternative minimum tax.
  • Permanently extends Bush-era tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 for all other taxpayers.
  • Reinstates phaseout of personal exemptions and overall limitation on itemized deductions for married couples filing jointly earning over $300,000 and single taxpayers earning over $250,000.
  • Raises the maximum estate tax rate to 40% but keeps the exemption amount at $5 million, adjusted for inflation.
  • Extends for 5 years (through 2018) the American Opportunity Tax Credit to pay for higher education, and special relief for families with 3 or more children for the refundable portion of the child tax credit and increased percentage for the earned income tax credit.
  • Patches the AMT for 2012 and adjusts the exemption amount for inflation going forward.
  • Extends through 2013 the following individual tax benefits: above the line deduction for teacher expenses, relief from cancellation of debt income for principal residences, parity for employer-provided mass transit benefits, deduction for mortgage insurance premiums as interest, election to deduct state and local sales taxes in   lieu of income taxes, above the line deduction for qualified education expenses, tax-free distributions from IRA accounts for charitable purposes.
  • Extends through 2013 certain business tax provisions that expired at the end of 2011 including: the research credit, the new markets tax credit, railroad track maintenance credit, mine rescue team training credit, work opportunity credit, the Section 179 asset expensing at $500,000, Section 1202 stock exclusion at 100%, and empowerment zone incentives.
  • Extends 50% bonus depreciation through 2013.
  • Extends through 2013 certain energy tax incentives that expired at the end of 2011 including: energy efficient credit for existing homes, alternative fuel vehicle refueling property credit, biodiesel and renewable diesel incentives, wind credit, energy efficient credit for new homes, and credit for manufacture of energy efficient appliances.

More detailed provisions of the Act are below:

Individual tax rates
All the individual marginal tax rates under EGTRRA and JGTRRA are retained (10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%). A new top rate of 39.6% is imposed on taxable income over $400,000 for single filers, $425,000 for head-of-household filers, and $450,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly ($225,000 for each married spouse filing separately).

Phaseout of itemized deductions and personal exemptions
The personal exemptions and itemized deductions phaseout is reinstated at a higher threshold of $250,000 for single taxpayers, $275,000 for heads of household, and $300,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.

Capital gains and dividends
A 20% rate applies to capital gains and dividends for individuals above the top income tax bracket threshold; the 15% rate is retained for taxpayers in the middle brackets. The zero rate is retained for taxpayers in the 10% and 15% brackets.

Alternative minimum tax
The exemption amount for the AMT on individuals is permanently indexed for inflation. For 2012, the exemption amounts are $78,750 for married taxpayers filing jointly and $50,600 for single filers. Relief from AMT for nonrefundable credits is retained.

Estate and gift tax
The estate and gift tax exclusion amount is retained at $5 million indexed for inflation ($5.12 million in 2012), but the top tax rate increases from 35% to 40% effective Jan. 1, 2013. The estate tax “portability” election, under which, if an election is made, the surviving spouse’s exemption amount is increased by the deceased spouse’s unused exemption amount, was made permanent by the act.

Permanent extensions
Various temporary tax provisions enacted as part of EGTRRA were made permanent. These include:

  • Marriage penalty relief (i.e., the increased size of the 15% rate bracket (Sec. 1(f)(8)) and increased standard deduction for married taxpayers filing jointly (Sec. 63(c)(2));
  • The liberalized child and dependent care credit rules (allowing the credit to be calculated based on up to $3,000 of expenses for one dependent or up to $6,000 for more than one) (Sec. 21);
  • The exclusion for National Health Services Corps and Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarships (Sec. 117(c)(2));
  • The exclusion for employer-provided educational assistance (Sec. 127);
  • The enhanced rules for student loan deductions introduced by EGTRRA (Sec. 221);
  • The higher contribution amount and other EGTRRA changes to Coverdell education savings accounts (Sec. 530);
  • The employer-provided child care credit (Sec. 45F);
  • Special treatment of tax-exempt bonds for education facilities (Sec 142(a)(13));
  • Repeal of the collapsible corporation rules (Sec. 341);
  • Special rates for accumulated earnings tax and personal holding company tax (Secs. 531 and 541); and
  • Modified tax treatment for electing Alaska Native Settlement Trusts (Sec. 646).

Individual credits expired at the end of 2012
The American opportunity tax credit for qualified tuition and other expenses of higher education was extended through 2018. Other credits and items from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, P.L. 111-5, that were extended for the same five-year period include enhanced provisions of the child tax credit under Sec. 24(d) and the earned income tax credit under Sec. 32(b). In addition, the bill permanently extends a rule excluding from taxable income refunds from certain federal and federally assisted programs (Sec. 6409).

Individual provisions expired at the end of 2011
The act also extended through 2013 a number of temporary individual tax provisions, most of which expired at the end of 2011:

  • Deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers (Sec. 62);
  • Exclusion from gross income of discharge of qualified principal residence indebtedness (Sec. 108);
  • Parity for exclusion from income for employer-provided mass transit and parking benefits (Sec. 132(f));
  • Mortgage insurance premiums treated as qualified residence interest (Sec. 163(h));
  • Deduction of state and local general sales taxes (Sec. 164(b));
  • Special rule for contributions of capital gain real property made for conservation purposes (Sec. 170(b));
  • Above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses (Sec. 222); and
  • Tax-free distributions from individual retirement plans for charitable purposes (Sec. 408(d)).

Business tax extenders
The act also extended many business tax credits and other provisions. Notably, it extended through 2013 and modified the Sec. 41 credit for increasing research and development activities, which expired at the end of 2011. The credit is modified to allow partial inclusion in qualified research expenses and gross receipts those of an acquired trade or business or major portion of one. The increased expensing amounts under Sec. 179 are extended through 2013. The availability of an additional 50% first-year bonus depreciation (Sec. 168(k)) was also extended for one year by the act. It now generally applies to property placed in service before Jan. 1, 2014 (Jan. 1, 2015, for certain property with longer production periods).
Other business provisions extended through 2013, and in some cases modified, are:

  • Temporary minimum low-income tax credit rate for non-federally subsidized new buildings (Sec. 42);
  • Housing allowance exclusion for determining area median gross income for qualified residential rental project exempt facility bonds (Section 3005 of the Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008);
  • Indian employment tax credit (Sec. 45A);
  • New markets tax credit (Sec. 45D);
  • Railroad track maintenance credit (Sec. 45G);
  • Mine rescue team training credit (Sec. 45N);
  • Employer wage credit for employees who are active duty members of the uniformed services (Sec. 45P);
  • Work opportunity tax credit (Sec. 51);
  • Qualified zone academy bonds (Sec. 54E);
  • Fifteen-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements (Sec. 168(e));
  • Accelerated depreciation for business property on an Indian reservation (Sec. 168(j));
  • Enhanced charitable deduction for contributions of food inventory (Sec. 170(e));
  • Election to expense mine safety equipment (Sec. 179E);
  • Special expensing rules for certain film and television productions (Sec. 181);
  • Deduction allowable with respect to income attributable to domestic production activities in Puerto Rico (Sec. 199(d));
  • Modification of tax treatment of certain payments to controlling exempt organizations (Sec. 512(b));
  • Treatment of certain dividends of regulated investment companies (Sec. 871(k));
  • Regulated investment company qualified investment entity treatment under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Act (Sec. 897(h));
  • Extension of subpart F exception for active financing income (Sec. 953(e));
  • Lookthrough treatment of payments between related controlled foreign corporations under foreign personal holding company rules (Sec. 954);
  • Temporary exclusion of 100% of gain on certain small business stock (Sec. 1202);
  • Basis adjustment to stock of S corporations making charitable contributions of property (Sec. 1367);
  • Reduction in S corporation recognition period for built-in gains tax (Sec. 1374(d));
  • Empowerment Zone tax incentives (Sec. 1391);
  • Tax-exempt financing for New York Liberty Zone (Sec. 1400L);
  • Temporary increase in limit on cover-over of rum excise taxes to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (Sec. 7652(f)); and
  • American Samoa economic development credit (Section 119 of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, P.L. 109-432, as modified).

Energy tax extenders
The act also extends through 2013, and in some cases modifies, a number of energy credits and provisions that expired at the end of 2011:

  • Credit for energy-efficient existing homes (Sec. 25C);
  • Credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling property (Sec. 30C);
  • Credit for two- or three-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles (Sec. 30D);
  • Cellulosic biofuel producer credit (Sec. 40(b), as modified);
  • Incentives for biodiesel and renewable diesel (Sec. 40A);
  • Production credit for Indian coal facilities placed in service before 2009 (Sec. 45(e)) (extended to an eight-year period);
  • Credits with respect to facilities producing energy from certain renewable resources (Sec. 45(d), as modified);
  • Credit for energy-efficient new homes (Sec. 45L);
  • Credit for energy-efficient appliances (Sec. 45M);
  • Special allowance for cellulosic biofuel plant property (Sec. 168(l), as modified);
  • Special rule for sales or dispositions to implement Federal Energy
  • Regulatory Commission or state electric restructuring policy for qualified electric utilities (Sec. 451); and
  • Alternative fuels excise tax credits (Sec. 6426).

Foreign provisions
The IRS’s authority under Sec. 1445(e)(1) to apply a withholding tax to gains on the disposition of U.S. real property interests by partnerships, trusts, or estates that are passed through to partners or beneficiaries that are foreign persons is made permanent, and the amount is increased to 20%

New taxes
In addition to the various provisions discussed above, some new taxes also took effect Jan. 1 as a result of 2010’s health care reform legislation.

Additional hospital insurance tax on high-income taxpayers. The employee portion of the hospital insurance tax part of FICA, normally 1.45% of covered wages, is increased by 0.9% on wages that exceed a threshold amount. The additional tax is imposed on the combined wages of both the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s spouse, in the case of a joint return. The threshold amount is $250,000 in the case of a joint return or surviving spouse, $125,000 in the case of a married individual filing a separate return, and $200,000 in any other case.
For self-employed taxpayers, the same additional hospital insurance tax applies to the hospital insurance portion of SECA tax on self-employment income in excess of the threshold amount.

Medicare tax on investment income. Starting Jan. 1, Sec. 1411 imposes a tax on individuals equal to 3.8% of the lesser of the individual’s net investment income for the year or the amount the individual’s modified adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds a threshold amount. For estates and trusts, the tax equals 3.8% of the lesser of undistributed net investment income or AGI over the dollar amount at which the highest trust and estate tax bracket begins.
For married individuals filing a joint return and surviving spouses, the threshold amount is $250,000; for married taxpayers filing separately, it is $125,000; and for other individuals it is $200,000.
Net investment income means investment income reduced by deductions properly allocable to that income. Investment income includes income from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties, and rents, and net gain from disposition of property, other than such income derived in the ordinary course of a trade or business. However, income from a trade or business that is a passive activity and from a trade or business of trading in financial instruments or commodities is included in investment income.

Medical care itemized deduction threshold. The threshold for the itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses has increased from 7.5% of AGI to 10% of AGI for regular income tax purposes. This is effective for all individuals, except, in the years 2013–2016, if either the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse has turned 65 before the end of the tax year, the increased threshold does not apply and the threshold remains at 7.5% of AGI.

Flexible spending arrangement. Effective for cafeteria plan years beginning after Dec. 31, 2012, the maximum amount of salary reduction contributions that an employee may elect to have made to a flexible spending arrangement for any plan year is $2,500.

This news alert published by:  Marshall, Jones & Co., www.marshalljones.com

JIn accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose.  The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only.  Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services.  Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

 

Tax Law Changes in the News

Stay up to date and informed about changes in tax law.  Highlighted in this article are some of the most recent.

Form 706 In Final Form:  On October 11, the IRS  issued the 2012 estate tax return (Form 706) in final form.  New on this form is the  portability election.  With portability, if an individual dies and does not utilize his or her applicable exemption amount,  the unused portion transfers to the surviving spouse if so elected by the deceased spouse’s personal representative.

According to regulations issued in June of 2012, executors choosing to make a portability election must estimate the total value of the gross estate based on a determination made in good faith and with due diligence. The instructions on Form 706 will provide ranges of dollar values, and every executor must identify the particular range within which the best estimate of the total gross estate falls.  An amount corresponding to this range will be included on the Form 706, which must be filed in order to execute the applicable exemption amount.  However, since this form is newly released, it is recommended that clients consult a tax professional and file extensions for early 2012 deaths.

New Tax Laws: Georgia’s Jobs and Family Tax Reform Plan is a comprehensive reform of how taxes are collected in Georgia.  The plan eliminates both the sales and ad valorem tax on automobiles and replaces them with a one-time title fee that is paid when the title is transferred from one owner to another.

The bill also phases out taxes assessed on energy used in manufacturing, so Georgia is now at an advantage in allocating new manufacturing in this state.  For example, Caterpillar added 1,400 jobs because of the phase out of such tax.

The bill also levels the playing field between retailers by requiring online retailers to collect and remit sales tax, just as brick and mortar stores do now.

Finally, the bill caps retirement income exclusion for senior citizens at $65,000 for a single filer and $130,000 for joint filers.

The Georgia Tax Tribunal Act provides a low cost mechanism for Georgia citizens to resolve tax disputes with the Department of Revenue.  The Tribunal, which will come into existence on January 1, 2013, ensures Georgians will be able to come before an expert to handle challenges to state tax assessments and denials of state tax refund claims.

 

For more information regarding estate planning, business law or tax controversy and  compliance, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com or call us at 404-255-7400.

 

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose.  The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only.  Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services.  Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

Opportunities to Take Advantage of Before Its Too Late

Tax laws are changing at the end of this year.  Take advantage of these opportunities before it’s too late.

Estate Tax Savings’ Techniques:

Gifting:  Use your $5,120,000 gift tax exemption.  Next year, the exemption is scheduled to be reduced to $1,000,000.  If you don’t use the exemption, you could lose it, and there is little downside as long as you don’t need the assets for future sustenance.

Spousal Access Trusts: Create spousal access trusts to use all or a portion of your gift tax exemption.  Your gift tax exemption can be used in a way that still allows you to provide for your spouse.

Valuation Discounts: Utilize valuation discounts for lack of marketability and lack of control. Gift hard to value or fractional interests in property.  By doing so, you can leverage your $5.12 million dollar exemption to remove even more property from your estate.  These valuation discounts for family owned assets and businesses are under scrutiny by the IRS and Congress.  If you wait too long, the law might change and you may lose the opportunity to leave more to your children and grandchildren.

Intra-Family Loans: Make intra-family loans. Interest rates are at all time lows.  By loaning money to trusts for the benefit of your children and grandchildren, you can remove virtually all of the appreciation on the loaned funds from your taxable estate, while knowing the principal is still there and can be paid back should you end up needing it.

Income Tax Savings’ Strategies:

Make Distributions: Make dividend payments from C corporations to take advantage of the current 15% tax rate. Next year, the rate is scheduled to go back up to ordinary income tax rates, and the new Healthcare Surtax could apply in certain circumstances making the highest effective tax rate on dividends 43.4%. That is almost a 200% increase in the tax rate on dividends.

Harvest Capital Gains: Sell appreciated assets now rather than next year.  The current capital gains rate of 15% is scheduled to rise to 20% next year and with the Healthcare Surtax, the highest effective tax rate on capital gains will be 23.8% in 2013.  That’s almost a 60% increase in the tax rate.

Charitable Deductions: Contribute to charities now, when the benefit is 35 cents on the dollar. Proposed legislation will reduce the deduction to 28 cents on the dollar next year.  Consider donor advised funds and private foundations that will allow you to have some control after the gift is made.

Fund 529 Plans: 529 plans are a great way to save for college.  Growth is tax free, and distributions are tax free if used to pay for qualified tuition and living expenses.  You can use up to 5 years worth of annual exclusion gifts in one year – that’s $65,000 per child in one year ($130,000 from a married couple), without using any of your lifetime gift exemption.  Act now because Congress may act to curb, reduce, or make the requirements more restrictive.

 

For more information regarding estate planning, business law or tax controversy and  compliance, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com or call us at 404-255-7400.

 

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose.  The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only.  Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services.  Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

Annual and Lifetime Gifts

Gifting can play an important role in reducing estate tax exposure.  A gift is the transfer of real and personal property such as real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, equipment, livestock, or cash, to beneficiaries before your death.  Gifting  removes all future appreciation on the gifted property from the taxable estate.   It can also accomplish income tax savings during life by shifting income producing property from one family member to another who is in a lower tax bracket.

The lifetime gift exemption for 2012 is set at $5.12 million dollars. However, it is scheduled to be reduced to $1 million dollars in 2013 unless Congress acts.  If you don’t use the current gift tax exemption, you could lose it.

In addition to your lifetime exemption, each donor may give $13,000 this year ($14,000 beginning in 2013)  per person, without any gift tax consequences.   To qualify for the annual exclusion, the gift must be a present interest gift (rather than a future interest).   Annual exclusion gifts can be outright or in trust.

Assume that a husband and wife have two children, each of whom is married, and each of whom has two unmarried children. This couple could give away a total of $208,000 this year without using up any part of their lifetime exemption. (Each parent could give $13,000 to each child, each child-in-law, and each grandchild, for a total of eight individual recipients, or $104,000 of gifts for the husband and $104,000 of gifts for the wife.  In 2013, each parent may gift an additional $1,000 per recipient.)

A gift will qualify for the $13,000 annual exclusion only if it is a gift of a “present interest.” Generally, this means that the (current year) gift must be made outright to the recipient, or (in the case of a person under age 21) to a Custodianship under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act, or to certain kinds of trusts (typically, a “Crummey Trust”.)   The “present interest” limitation may require that the asset given away be income-producing or currently salable by the recipient.

For more information regarding estate planning, business law or tax controversy and  compliance, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com or call us at 404-255-7400.

 

In accordance with IRS Circular 230, this article is not to be considered a “covered opinion” or other written tax advice and should not be relied upon for IRS audit, tax dispute, or any other purpose.  The information contained herein is provided “as is” for general guidance on matters of interest only.  Hoffman & Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, LLC is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, or other professional advice and services.  Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a competent professional advisor.

H&A Successful in Audit Challenge

In this case our client was faced with a proposed IRS audit adjustment of $412,000 of denied deductions, which would have resulted in over $126,000 of additional income tax owed and $38,000 of penalties and interest.  The primary issues related to hobby loss exposure and substantiation.  H&A advised client throughout the audit process.  The IRS eventually reduced the assessment to a mere $436.     This successful outcome was the result of a collaberative effort between the client, his accountant, and the H&A team.  We want to thank everyone involved for their efforts.

If you would like help dealing with the IRS, please contact us at (404) 255-7400.

3 Year Statute of Limitations Applies to IRS Assesments based on Mistatement of Basis

The statute of limitations on IRS assessment of taxpayers is normally 3 years, but the law provides a 6 years statute of limitations where the taxpayer has understated gross income by more than 25%.   In United States v. Home Concreate & Supply, LLC, the IRS argued that where property basis is overtated, it is tantamount to an understatement of income, and, therefore, the 6 year statute of limitations applied.  The Supreme Court found otherwise, holding the 3 year statute of limitations rather than the 6 year statute of limitations applied where the taxpayer overstated it’s original cost basis on the return.    Below is a link to the case.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-139.pdf

If you need help dealing with the IRS, give us a call at (404) 255-7400.

Defined Value Gifting Validated in Wandry v. Commissioner!

Hoffman & Associates has used defined value gifting as a way to reduce valuation risk in gifting hard to value assets since the early 1990s.   The idea is that a taxpayer should be able to gift a defined value amount of an asset rather than a fixed percentage of an asset.  

The IRS has long contested the use of defined value clauses as against public policy because they reduce the IRS’ incentive to contest asset valuations.  In the case of Joanne M. Wandry, et al. v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2012-88 (March 26, 2012), the Tax Court took the defined value gift issue head on and found the IRS arguments unpersuasive.

Mr. and Mrs. Wandry owned LLC units of Norseman Capital, LLC.  An independent appraiser determined that the  value of a 1% interest in the LLC was worth $109,000.  Mr. and Mrs. Norseman desired to gift to their children and grandchildren defined value amounts of the LLC as follows:

Name

Gift Amount

Kenneth D. Wandry

$261,000

Cynthia A. Wandry

$261,000

Jason K. Wandry

$261,000

Jared S. Wandry

$261,000

Grandchild A

$11,000

Grandchild B

$11,000

Grandchild C

$11,000

Grandchild D

$11,000

Grandchild E

$11,000

Total Gifts

$1,099,000

 The Wandrys executed assignments to their children and grandchildren with defined value amounts and containing the following adjustment clause in case the IRS later found that the LLC was improperly valued by the appraiser:  “the number of gifted [LLC] units shall be adjusted accordingly so that the value of the number of units gifted to each person equals the amount set forth above”.

In the years following the gifts, the Wandrys’ gift tax returns and the LLC income tax returns reported the children and grandchildren as an owner of a percentage of the LLC.  So each child reportedly owned a 2.39% ($261,000/$109,000) and each grandchild reportedly owned a .1% ($11,000/$109,000) interest.  

Years later, the IRS audited the gift tax return and found that a 1% LLC interest was, at the time of the gift, actually worth $150,000.   The IRS disregarded the defined value clause in the assignment, arguing that it is against public policy because it’s enforcement would virtually eliminate the incentive for the IRS to audit valuations of gifted property.  The IRS concluded that because the tax returns reported that the children owned a 2.39% interest, that must be the amount gifted to them.  And if a 2.39% LLC interest was gifted, then the value must be $385,500 (2.39% x $150,000) rather than $261,000.   The result of the audit was a taxable gift in excess of the Wandrys remaining lifetime gift tax exemption.

Mr. and Mrs. Wandry and the IRS eventually stipulated that a 1% interest in Norseman was worth $132,000, but the issues of whether the defined value formula clause and the adjustment clause were enforceable went before the Tax Court.  The IRS argued that the gift tax returns and the income tax returns were admissions of the transfer of fixed percentages.  It also argued the adjustment clause was void for federal tax purposes as against public policy on the grounds that it was a condition subsequent to completed gifts.  The taxpayers argued that the assignments only transferred defined value amounts (not percentages) and that public policy concerns regarding the adjustment clause did not apply because the value was set on the date of the gift.  

The Court found that the taxpayers’ intent and actions proved that only the dollar amounts of gifts were intended and that the public policy arguments regarding the adjustment clause were without merit.   As such, the Tax Court validated use of defined value formula gifts as an estate planning technique for reducing exposure to later valuation adjustments by the IRS.  This case was a big win for the Wandrys and for taxpayers and estate planners around the country.

If you need help with your estate plan or would like to learn more, please do not hesitate to contact us at (404) 255-7400.

The SCIN: An Attractive Estate Planning Opportunity In 2012

2012 presents unique opportunities to do estate planning.  The reasons may be familiar to you by now:   lifetime gift and estate tax exemptions are $5 million (without Congressional action, it will go to $1 million in 2013), valuation discounts for family owned entities remain viable, and property values and interest rates at all time lows.  The catch:   There’s a limited time to capitalize on these opportunities.

This article will focus on one estate planning tool, the Self Canceling Installment Note (“SCIN”) whose benefit is magnified under 2012’s low interest rate environment. 

What is a SCIN?

SCINs are a planning technique used in a sale of an asset to either a trust or directly from an older family member to members of a younger generation.  Basically, the older generation sells the asset in exchange for an installment note with a term shorter than the seller’s life expectancy.  Life expectancies are found in IRS tables.   The installment note contains a provision by which the remaining balance is completely canceled upon the seller’s death.

What is the benefit of the SCIN?

What makes a SCIN a valuable tool is the fact that if the seller dies before the term of the note, the remaining balance is completely canceled and this canceled amount is not included in the seller’s taxable estate.   

The SCIN is especially beneficial if only annual interest payments are made until the end of the term, when a balloon principal payment is due.  By deferring the principal payment until the end of the term, the amount cancelled upon death can include the entire principal amount of the promissory note.

To illustrate, assume a client sells a small business worth $10 million to a trust for her children in return for a promissory note with annual interest payments and a balloon payment at the end of the term.  This simple sale would itself be beneficial for estate tax purposes.  If the business  appreciated to $20 million before client’s death, all $10 million of appreciation would be outside the client’s taxable estate, perhaps saving $3.5 million in estate taxes.    However, $10 million remaining principal balance on the note would remain in the taxpayer’s taxable estate, subject to a 35% tax rate.  If the client had used a SCIN rather than a simple promissory note,   the $10 million principal payment would cancel, leaving the trust with a windfall.  For estate tax purposes, this means that the entire $20 million asset escapes estate tax.

Is there any downside to a SCIN?

The IRS would not allow this transaction unless it is equivalent to an arms-length transaction between unrelated parties.   So in return for the self cancelling feature of the note,  a “mortality risk premium” is charged to the payor – typically an increased interest rate.  The older the seller is, the greater the mortality risk premium will be.    

This mortality risk premium is the downside of the SCIN transaction.  If the seller outlives the term of the SCIN, the trust will have paid the mortality risk premium interest rate to the seller for absolutely no benefit.[1] 

What makes 2012 an unusually good time to use a SCIN?

What makes the SCIN extremely attractive now is the historically low interest rate environment.  The SCIN interest rate is the base AFR rate which the IRS requires for all promissory notes, plus the mortality risk premium.  

Today, both the AFR rates and mortality risk premiums are very low.   Long term AFR rates for 2012 have hovered around 2.75%.  The largest the mortality rate premium has been for a 55-year-old male since January 2010 was only .58 percent.  The SCIN rate for a 70 year old in March 2012 was only 3.07 percent.    Thus, a 55 year old can do a SCIN at an interest rate of around 3.47%.  A 70 year old can do a SCIN for a rate of around 5.96%.  In both cases, the SCIN interest rates are below historical average prime rate of interest for third party loans.    Under these circumstances the downside risk of a SCIN is very small when compared to the huge estate tax benefit that could result. 

If you need help with your estate plan or want additional information, please contact us at (404) 255-7400.


[1] This downside risk can be mitigated by combining the SCIN strategy with a GRAT strategy.  The SCIN strategy only works if the seller passes away during the term of the SCIN. The GRAT strategy only works if the seller survives the term of the GRAT.  By combining the two, mortality risk can be greatly reduced if not eliminated.

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