Monday, December 22, 2014

With the end of the year approaching, we thought now would be a good time to re-post this blog from the end of 2012.  While the Mayan calendar is no longer in play, nor is the fiscal cliff, the rules of completed gifts still apply.  For 2014, however, increase the annual exclusion gift amount to $14,000 (instead of 2012’s $13,000) and the gift tax exemption amount to $5,340,000 (instead of 2012’s $5,120,000).

With nine days left in the year, many people are still planning how to make 2012 2014 gifts, whether by making “annual exclusion” gifts of $13,000 $14,000 per beneficiary, or by taking advantage of the 2012 2014 gift tax exemption amount of $5,120,000 $5,340,000. Maybe they couldn’t make up their mind before now, maybe they were waiting for the election results, or maybe they wanted to see whether the Mayan calendar was accurate before making any gifts. Whatever the reason for the last-minute gifting, as the end of the year approaches, people may be tempted to make a “quick and easy” gift to their beneficiaries by simply writing a check. As the year draws to a close, however, if your gift is dependent on utilizing 2012 2014 tax law, beware of the potential trap of making a gift by check.

A gift is not complete for tax purposes until the gift is no longer revocable.  However, if you write someone a check, until that check clears, you could always “revoke” the check by alerting your bank to stop payment, or by emptying your account of sufficient funds to pay on the check.   Until the check clears the bank, your gift is still revocable.  Therefore, if your beneficiary doesn’t deposit the check in time for the banking system to clear the check, your gift may not be considered irrevocable until 2013 2015, and you have therefore made a gift in 2013 2015 instead of 2012 2014.

If you are planning to make 2012 2014 gifts over the next 9 days by means of a check, be wary and let your beneficiaries know that they need to deposit that check as soon as possible.  Better yet, make the gift by means of a cashier’s check, which is considered irrevocable as soon as you hand it over.  That way, you don’t have to rely on the promptness of your beneficiaries’ next trip to the bank, and the promptness of the banks in processing the checks.

Friday, October 3, 2014

conservationThe increasingly popular conservation easement charitable deduction allows a landowner to deduct a portion of the value of a piece of land by limiting the land’s use.  In a typical scenario, a landowner records a conservation easement on the land and then donates the conservation easement to a conservation organization.  The landowner receives an appraisal of the value of (i) the developable land and (ii) the land once the conservation easement has been recorded.  The landowner then deducts the difference as a charitable contribution.  In such a scenario, Section 170 of the tax code allows a deduction as long as the easement is perpetual, made to a qualified organization, and for a valid conservation purpose.

The typical scenario is changing, however, as more and more landowners are holding their property in trust.  When the land is held in trust, it is more difficult to deduct a conservation easement. (more…)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Originally posted on December 2, 2011 here.

You are allowed to give the gift of tuition to your children and grandchildren. More specifically, you can pay tuition to an educational institution on behalf of a loved one without triggering any gift tax or generation skipping transfer tax.

With the costs of education skyrocketing, more and more tuition bills are ringing in upwards of $20,000 or even $30,000 per year. Making gifts of that magnitude during life through tuition can save thousands down the road. At the end of a four year college education, the student graduates with a college degree, with less student debt, or perhaps even debt free, and you have gifted as much as $120,000 for the benefit of that student without paying any gift tax or generation skipping transfer tax! It may not be as tangible, but that is a much better deal than the sweater you were eyeing!

This tax-free tuition gift is not limited to paying college tuition and graduate school tuition. Often, nursery school, private elementary school, and high school tuition will qualify as well. So long as the primary purpose of the organization is formal instruction and the organization normally maintains a regular faculty and curriculum and has a regularly enrolled student body, the educational organization should qualify and you can pay the tuition as a gift.

Of course, there are some restrictions. The tuition must be paid directly to the qualifying institution. It may not go to the student, or to the student’s parents for reimbursement of tuition already paid. Also, the tax-free gift can only cover the actual tuition. It must not be used for room and board, books and supplies, or other expenses associated with the student’s education. Best of all, a gift of tuition has no impact on your ability to take advantage of other methods of gifting, like annual exclusion gifts, or lifetime cash gifts as discussed earlier in our Methods of Gifting post.

Monday, July 14, 2014

ClintonSenateWhile constant attention is being given to Hillary Clinton’s potential decision to run for the presidency in 2016 and the release of her latest book, Hard Choices, last month, news sources recently reported that she and former President Bill Clinton have taken advantage of several of the estate planning techniques recommended by trusts and estates attorneys for high net worth individuals.

This is interesting, in part, because the Clintons support the estate tax and have not been in support of its repeal.

According to reported sources, each of the Clintons created a qualified personal residence trust and each contributed his or her 50% ownership interest in their Chappaqua, New York house to his or her respective trust. A qualified personal residence trust, commonly called by its acronym QPRT, is an IRS sanctioned estate planning technique.  The creator of the trust places a residence or interest in a residence in the trust, retains the right to live in the trust for a term of years, and after the term the trust asset or the residence passes to a beneficiary.

The Internal Revenue Code has special rules which help calculate the value of the “gift” made by the creator to the QPRT. The gift portion, which could offset some of the $5,340,000 exemption allotted to individuals in 2014 is not the entire value of the residence, but the value of the residence when transferred reduced by the value of the retained use by the creator for the trust term.

By having each of the Clintons create a separate QPRT with only a 50% interest in the residence, the value of such interest may also be eligible for a discount for owning less than a majority interest.

In order for a QPRT to work, the creator of the trust must outlive the trust term.  But for a relatively healthy individual, it is quite likely for this to happen.

(more…)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

474603253It’s that time of the year again…tax time! Like it or not, when tax season rolls around it is time for most Americans to add “do taxes” to the “to do” list. Chances are you have already started gathering the documents that you or your accountant will need to complete your income tax return. Or, if you are ahead of the game, your income tax return is already filed and your refund (if you are lucky) is in your pocket. (more…)

Friday, March 14, 2014

The term March Madness may take on new significance to New Yorkers this year. In addition to contributing to NCAA pools, New Yorkers should consider making gifts this month. Following up on prior blog post, New Yorkers may have a very small window of opportunity to take advantage of gifting significant sums of money prior to April 1, 2014. Currently New York State has no gift tax. New Yorkers can make gifts of any size to anyone without incurring any New York gift tax consequences at all. However, the gift and estate tax rules may change shortly. Governor Cuomo has proposed a change to New York’s estate and gift tax law that will require all taxable gifts made by a New York resident after March 31, 2014 to be included as part of the gross estate for purposes of calculating the New York estate tax. However, the proposal would not apply to gifts made prior to April 1, 2014. (more…)

Monday, January 27, 2014

A program related investment (PRI) is a powerful tool for a private foundation to positively influence social enterprise while advancing its philanthropy and satisfying its 5% annual minimum distribution requirement.
Traditionally, private foundations have used grant-making activities as the primary means to satisfy their 5% annual minimum payout requirement and to accomplish their tax exempt purposes. However, modern trends reveal a new focus of private foundations on PRIs to achieve the same results.

What is a PRI?

A PRI is an investment, rather than a grant, whose primary purpose is to achieve one or more of the private foundation’s tax exempt purposes and no significant purposes of which is the production of income or the appreciation of property. However, the fact that an investment produces significant income or capital appreciation is not conclusive evidence that income or appreciation was a significant purpose of the investment, and, therefore, does not preclude the investment from being a valid PRI. As a practical matter, many PRIs produce income or capital appreciation. The test is whether the production of income or capital appreciation is a significant purpose of the investment over the tax exempt purposes of the investment. As long as the tax exempt purpose of the investment is strong, the production of income or capital appreciation should be viewed as a mere ancillary benefit.

A PRI is also a great benefit to a private foundation. PRI counts towards a foundation’s qualifying distributions just as if they were grants and are exempt from the excess business holdings tax (imposed on foundation investments that exceed 20 percent of a for-profit venture) and the jeopardizing investment tax (imposed on investments that jeopardize the tax exempt purposes of a foundation).

(more…)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

With research and drafting assistance from Washington University School of Law student, Kelsey DeLong.

In Estate of Lambur, the Missouri Court of Appeals addressed the issue of whether an attorney-in-fact is permitted to gift the principal’s property to herself when the gift is not expressly authorized in the power of attorney.

In 2005, Verna Irene Lambur (“Irene”) executed a durable power of attorney naming her nephew’s wife, Anna Stidham (“Anna”), and Jackie Johnson (“Jackie”) as her attorneys-in-fact. The power of attorney granted Irene’s attorneys-in-fact the following power:

“To establish, change or revoke survivorship rights in property or accounts, beneficiary designations for life insurance, IRA and other contracts and plans, and registrations in beneficiary form; to establish ownership of property or accounts in my name with others in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship and to exercise any right I have in joint property; to exercise or decline to exercise any power given to me to appoint property [sic]; to disclaim or renounce transfers to me of property; to make inter vivos gifts of my property to my lineal descendants, including my attorneys in fact, in amounts that are equal by line or class and in an amount for any person that does not exceed in any year the annual gift tax exclusion[.]”

Shortly after the execution of the power of attorney, Anna and Jackie transferred assets that Irene owned, individually, into two new accounts, each titled in the names of Irene, Jackie, and Anna, with rights of survivorship. Upon Irene’s death in May, 2005, the combined value the two accounts was $129,134.46. (more…)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

When is a modification or reformation of an irrevocable trust given effect for Federal tax purposes? In each of two recent private letter rulings, the government addressed the impact of a reformation and of a modification on Federal taxation of the trusts in question.  Here, we will look at a ruling favorable to the IRS.  Come back next week when we discuss a ruling in favor of the taxpayer.

In PLR 201243001, on advice of his own attorney, the Decedent’s son requested that Decedent amend her trust to eliminate the outright distribution of his inheritance, and instead to have that portion of her trust fund a continuing trust for the benefit of the son and his descendants during his lifetime, and, upon his death, to be distributed outright to his descendants upon reaching age 45. The purpose of this trust amendment was to avoid having the property that would fund the continuing trust be includible in the son’s taxable estate at his death.

Instead of amending the trust as requested, Decedent’s attorney prepared the trust amendment to provide as follows: the son’s share would be distributed outright to him, unless he disclaimed the gift, in which case, it would pass into a continuing trust having the terms requested by Decedent’s son. Decedent signed this trust amendment. Decedent’s attorney did not realize, until after Decedent’s death, that a person who was not a spouse could not disclaim in this fashion without gift tax consequences. (more…)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Today and tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments in two cases that could change the scope of marriage in the United States. Today, the Court is hearing oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, and tomorrow, the Court will be hearing oral arguments in the case of United States v. Windsor.

The cases contain a myriad of questions, but if the Court decides to get past the procedural questions and issue rulings on the substance, significant changes could be in store regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) and the federal treatment of same-sex marriages. For a discussion of all of the various constitutional issues the Court may address in these cases, see Erwin Chemerinsky’s article, “Chemerinsky: Same-sex marriage battle goes before the Supreme Court“. (more…)