Today President Trump signed into law the most extensive package of reforms to the United States income tax system since the overhaul of the tax code in 1986. The breadth and magnitude of the final version of the tax reform bill, generally referred to as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (“TCJA”), will impact almost all taxpayers (whether individuals, businesses, trusts or estates).
Around this time every year, the IRS looks at whether there has been a year-over-year increase in the Consumer Price Index and announces inflation adjustments to the federal gift and estate tax exclusion amounts for the following calendar year. In the midst of all the talk in Washington D.C. about tax reform and speculation about the fate of the estate tax, the IRS has just announced the gift and estate tax exclusion amounts for 2018. In general, these exclusion amounts tell a U.S. citizen or resident how much he or she can give away without incurring gift and/or estate tax on the transfer. Individuals and couples make use of these amounts, both during lifetime and at death, to transfer wealth to family and friends on a tax-free basis. When the amounts go up, as they are scheduled to do next year, it presents an opportunity to increase the tax-free giving.
Around this time every year, the IRS looks at whether there has been a year-over-year increase in the Consumer Price Index and announces inflation adjustments to the federal gift and estate tax exclusion amounts for the following calendar year. In general, these exclusion amounts tell a U.S. citizen or resident how much he or she can give away without incurring gift and/or estate tax on the transfer. Individuals and couples make use of these amounts, both during lifetime and at death, to transfer wealth to family and friends on a tax-free basis. When the amounts go up, it presents an opportunity to increase the tax-free giving. Given that inflation has been relatively sluggish, will any of these exclusion amounts be higher in 2017 than they are currently? According to the announcement just released by the IRS, the answer is “yes” for some but not all.
Traditionally, families have relied on valuation discounts when transferring interests in closely-held family businesses to the next generations. Transfers of minority interests in a closely-held family entity were generally allowed a minority discount when valuing interests for estate and gift and tax purposes, primarily due to the inability of a minority shareholder to compel a liquidation of the entity. These discounts often proved to be a helpful way for the family to avoid the need to sell the family business to pay estate taxes, by reducing the gift and estate tax burden on such transfers. The proposed regulations effectively eliminate any minority discounts and largely any marketability discounts on the valuations for estate and gift tax purposes. If these regulations are finalized, they would impact transfers between family members of interests in family-controlled corporations, partnerships, LLCs and other business entities, regardless of whether the business is active or passive.
Now that sunshine and blue skies are upon us, people are opening their summer homes for the season. Happy memories of family vacations and gatherings often motivate parents to seek out ways to preserve their second home for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Whether you’ve got a compound on the Cape or a cabin on Winnipesaukee, it’s an appropriate time to think about how these properties currently fit into your estate plan. It’s also crucial to consider how such decisions will affect those who love and use these properties now and might want to continue doing so after you’ve passed away.
During the Perkins School for the Blind annual fundraising gala, Perkins Possibilities 2016, we witnessed the launch of the powerful social change campaign called BlindNewWorld. The campaign aims to help the sighted population break down barriers to blind inclusion like discomfort and fear and create a more blind-friendly world. This got us thinking: how can we do a better job of taking the needs of clients who are blind or visually impaired into account when designing our estate planning services? We came up with three ideas we want to share.
If you already understand what a typical estate plan looks like, you can skip to the next paragraph. Put simply, it is more than just a will. Instead, a typical estate plan contains four documents: a will, revocable trust, health care proxy and power of attorney. The health care proxy and power of attorney are designed to operate during your lifetime, while the will and revocable trust control how your property is dealt with after your death. The will tends to be a relatively simple document by which you give away your personal belongings and name the personal representatives who are to administer your estate. The trust, on the other hand, distributes the balance of your assets among the people (and charities) you care about and names the trustees who will administer the trust property according to your wishes. The trust is necessarily more complex than the will, because it is where the tax planning provisions are found.
- Editor in Chief, Co-Chair, Nonprofit and Social Impact practice group
- Chair, Tax Department and Co-Chair, Nonprofit and Social Impact practice group