Archive for the ‘Tax’ category

Intentionally Defective Budget Proposal: President Obama’s Attack on Grantor Trusts

February 21, 2012

 By Erica Opitz

On February 13, 2012, President Obama proposed the budget for 2013.  The budget proposal has been reported to be dead on arrival.  Notably, however, President Obama’s budget proposal went after intentionally defective grantor trusts, which is not a proposal that we have seen previously.  If this were to pass, the results would wreak havoc on a top estate planning tool. With the sun setting of the current estate tax code provisions at the end of this year, it is possible that President Obama’s grantor trust proposal will be used as a bargaining chip and could potentially reappear in future legislation.

Under the proposal, the legislation would only be effective for transfers on or after the date of enactment.  As a result, transfers to a grantor trust prior to enactment would remain outside of the grantor’s estate.  For this reason, it is important to take advantage of the grantor trust while the benefits remain available.

Current Law:

In an intentionally defective grantor trust, the grantor retains certain rights and powers over the property held by the trust.  For income tax purposes, a grantor trust is not a separate entity from the grantor, and as a result, the grantor pays all income taxes on the trust earnings.  Under the current regime, the assets placed in the grantor trust are held outside of the grantor’s estate.  The transfer of property into the trust is treated as a completed gift for estate and gift tax purposes.  As a result, future appreciation on the assets placed in the trust is not subject to estate or gift tax.  Furthermore, a sale from the grantor to the grantor trust is ignored for income tax purposes.

Proposed Law:

President Obama’s budget proposal would include the assets of the grantor trust in the grantor’s gross estate.  Additionally, any distributions from a grantor trust would be subject to gift tax as would the assets of the trust if the grantor ceased to be the owner of the trust.  President Obama’s proposal would apply income tax to a sale from the grantor to the grantor trust if the sale would be subject to capital gains tax if the sale was made by someone other than the grantor.  The Department of Treasury’s green book states the reasoning behind the proposal.  “Taxpayers should be required to take consistent positions in dealing with the Internal Revenue Service.  The basis of property acquired from a decedent generally is the fair market value of the property on the decedent’s date of death.”

Now is the Time for All Good Estate Planners to Come to the Aid of Their Clients!: Estate Planning Opportunities in 2012

February 7, 2012

 By Ashley Alderman

On January 25, 2012, Scot Kirkpatrick and I spoke about how clients can utilize the current gift, estate, and generation-skipping transfer tax laws and $5.12 million exclusion amount in 2012 to their advantage, particularly given the increasing likelihood that as of January 1, 2013, we will again be back to a $1 million gift and estate tax exemption with a 55% tax rate and a 5% surcharge on estates in excess of $10 million.  After reviewing the current state of the law, we also discussed the lingering questions surrounding the estate tax law, primarily dealing with the concept of portability of the unused spousal exclusion amount and the potential for “claw back” if an individual makes gifts in 2012 utilizing the current $5.12 million exclusion amount, but then the individual dies in a year when the exclusion amount is less than the amount the individual already gave away.  There is the potential that when the individual dies, his estate will owe estate taxes on those prior gifts.  Despite the uncertainty and this claw back risk, maximizing use of the $5.12 million exclusion amount in 2012 is still a very attractive option for some clients.  One reason is that many practitioners believe that some form of administrative or legislative relief would be provided.  Although there is not unanimity among all commentators, another reason is that even if the claw back applies, the total amount of taxes paid by the client and his estate would be lower if the gifted assets appreciate in value because the assets, along with any appreciation on such assets, are removed from the gross estate.

Following the explanation of the current law, and the uncertainties in the current law, we discussed multiple estate planning opportunities for clients in 2012, in particular those to utilize their $5.12 million exclusion amounts.  Some of the strategies discussed include:

  1. Outright gifts;
  2. Decanting assets in existing trusts into new trusts;
  3. Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts;
  4. Business Restructuring, including the formation of Family Limited Partnerships and “Estate Freezes,” including gifts and sales to intentionally defective grantor trusts;
  5. Captive Insurance Companies;
  6. Forgiveness or refinancing of outstanding promissory notes or loans;
  7. Additional gifts to Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts to facilitate the purchase of additional life insurance policies or increased death benefit on existing policies;
  8. Qualified Personal Residence Trusts; and
  9. Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts.

As we repeatedly emphasized to those in attendance, this is the year to “use it or lose it!”   Many of these strategies need to be implemented in the beginning of the year in order to be completed by the end of 2012.  If you or a client may benefit from some of these estate planning opportunities, we will be glad to discuss them in more detail with you.

IRS Guidance Anticipated for Tax Effects of Trust Decanting

January 25, 2012

 By Rose Drupiewski

The IRS announced that it would place the issue of trust “decanting” on its priority list of items to focus on in 2011 and 2012 for purposes of providing taxpayer guidance.   Decanting occurs when a trustee, pursuant to authority provided in the trust agreement or under state law, transfers property from one trust to another.  Decanting powers have recently become popular with trust drafters as a way to provide additional flexibility to trustees when managing trust assets on behalf of beneficiaries.

The reason for the popularity of decanting powers is that such powers can provide flexibility to otherwise inflexible irrevocable trust agreements.  For example, if a trust agreement provides for an outright distribution of assets to a trust beneficiary at age 25 and the trustee has determined that the beneficiary lacks enough maturity at that age to handle a large distribution, the trustee could (if permitted under the trust agreement or state law) transfer the assets to another trust for the benefit of such beneficiary that will not terminate at age 25 but at a later date.

Although decanting can be extremely useful from the standpoint of flexibility, such flexibility may come with undesirable tax consequences.  The gift, estate, GST and income tax consequences of decanting are less than clear.  For example, there has been some concern that the presence of a decanting power may transform an otherwise irrevocable trust into a revocable trust for estate tax purposes, thus causing the assets in the trust to be included in the grantor’s gross estate.  This is obviously an undesirable consequence because many irrevocable trusts are created for the purpose of enabling a grantor to make gifts to family members in trust without causing estate tax inclusion.  There is also some concern as to whether, if the trustee is a beneficiary of the trust, the trustee’s decanting power might be deemed a general power of appointment for estate tax purposes, which might cause unwanted estate tax consequences for the trustee.  These are just a few examples of multiple unresolved gift, estate, GST and income tax issues relating to trust decanting powers.  Because of the lack of clarity regarding the tax effects of decanting and the hope for favorable guidance, the IRS’s announcement is welcome news for many tax planners and their clients.

In connection with the IRS priority plan, the IRS has recently requested comments from the general public regarding the tax implications of decanting powers.  Comments should be submitted to the IRS by April 25, 2012.

Resolving to Succeed

January 12, 2012

 by Jeff Waddell

The end of the year and beginning of the new year is a time when many of us reflect on that which has passed and that which is to come.  Resolutions are made regarding exercise, fiscal responsibility and other personal items.  Personal health is a primary theme in this introspective endeavor, but for the business owner, what about the long-term health of your business?

An often quoted and almost equally often overlooked adage says that “failing to plan is planning to fail.”  While that sentiment is true during our lifetimes, just stop for a moment and consider what happens when a small business owner does not have a business succession plan in place.  More often than not, the next generation was either not involved in the business or not ready to “take command.”  If proper planning has not occurred, the estate tax burden on the estate of the deceased business owner could cripple the business moving forward.  Do not let this happen to your business.

Take the time to review the health of your business and determine your goals for the business after you retire, in one form or another.  Once you have a general plan, visit with your accountant and estate/business planning attorney to refine your goals through a variety of available vehicles including trusts, corporate restructuring, stock sales, and many others, to achieve a clear cohesive plan of action and begin to implement it.  Hopefully you will “tone those abs” in 2012, but also take the time to resolve to succeed for your business this year.

Jingle Bells or Ringing Out the Year Gone By – Time Is Short to Complete Annual Planning

November 14, 2011

 by Jeff Waddell

Each year at this time our section of the office begins to get really busy.  Clients we have reached out to all year but who have not responded suddenly begin appearing.  Yes, its year end annual gifting time.  Pay heed to the sounds of the approaching holiday season, for in all the merriment those sounds signal the last days to take advantage of annual exclusion gifting or the last opportunity to capture a loss to offset a gain in the same tax year.

Take the opportunity to be proactive.  Review what you have done and what can, or should, be done before year-end.  Be aware that the annual gifting exclusion for each individual is currently $13,000.  Consider consulting your accountant (now is a relatively quiet period for them) to determine whether you are likely to experience an unpleasant April surprise on your tax bill and if so what might help offset that unwanted occurrence.  Then give your estate planning attorney a call to discuss what needs to occur before year end.

Just as with holiday giving, estate planning gifts come in all shapes and sizes.  Annual gifting is something, as the name implies, to consider every year.  This year and next, unless and until the law changes, larger opportunities exist than ever before in the gifting arena (with lifetime $5 million dollar gifting exemptions) so, if your current financial situation allows, consider making it a truly memorable holiday season for yourself and your loved ones.

IRS Issues Guidance on 2010 Estate Tax Return Filing Requirements and Deadlines

September 14, 2011

 By Ashley Alderman

On September 8, 2011, the IRS released the updated Form 706, “United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return” for decedents dying in 2010.  A link to the Form 706 and the accompanying instructions appears below.  The Form incorporates the changes made to the Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Taxes in the 2010 Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act.  According to the Instructions for the Form 706, estates of decedents who died in 2010 with a gross estate (including adjusted taxable gifts and specific exemptions) in excess of $5,000,000 must file a Form 706, unless the Executor of the Estate makes an election to apply the modified carryover basis treatment.

The deadline for filing the Form 706 is September 19, 2011, but the Executor may apply for an automatic six-month extension by filing Form 4768, “Application for Extension of Time to File a Return and/or Pay U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Taxes.”  A link to this form is also included below.  The automatic extension extends the deadline for filing the Form 706 and paying the tax to March 19, 2012.

If the Executor elects to apply the modified carryover basis treatment, then Form 706 does not have to be filed, but the Executor must file a Form 8939, “Allocation of Increase in Basis for Property Acquired from a Decedent” instead.  This Form 8939 has not been finalized by the IRS.  The Form 8939 was originally due on November 15, 2011, but pursuant to Notice 2011-76 issued on September 13, 2011, the deadline is now January 17, 2012.  In accordance with earlier guidance in Rev. Proc. 2011-41 and Notice 2011-66, in Notice 2011-76, the IRS stated that it would not allow extensions for time to file this Form 8939, to make a carryover basis election or to amend or revoke such election except under certain specific exceptions.  We will update the Blawg when that final form becomes available on the IRS website.

Because a Form 8939 will not have another extension period, it is important that Practitioners and Executors quickly determine whether it is beneficial for the estate to elect the modified carryover basis treatment (and file such election by January 17, 2012) or file an extension to file the Form 706 by September 19, 2011 and then proceed with the filing of a Form 706 prior to the final deadline of March 19, 2012.  This determination may be more complex in situations where the estate is over the $5,000,000 exemption amount, but due to very low basis assets in the estate it may be beneficial for the Estate to pay some estate tax in order to receive a stepped-up basis rather than elect into the carryover basis treatment and eliminate any estate tax due.

 Resources: Forms

Form 706: United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return

Instructions for Form 706

Form 4768: Application for Extension of Time To File a Return and/or Pay U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Taxes

Instructions for Form 4768

Income Tax Deductions for Estate Planning Costs

May 24, 2011

 By Rose Drupiewski

Proper estate planning may provide substantial benefits to a client in the form of tax savings, asset protection, and control over the distribution of assets.  While such goals are typically the intended benefits of estate planning, clients and their planners should also be aware of potential unintended benefits.  For example, income tax savings may be obtained through the proper utilization of Code section 212, which allows an income tax deduction for all ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year for: (1) the production or collection of income; (2) the management, conservation, or maintenance of property held for the production of income; or (3) the determination, collection, or refund of any tax (including estate and gift taxes).

The costs incurred by an estate planning client, which may include attorney and accountant fees, appraisal costs, filing fees, etc., may be deductible under Code section 212.  In general, costs relating to the preparation of wills, trusts, and other testamentary documents are not deductible for income tax purposes, but costs relating to estate and gift tax calculations, tax planning, and return preparation may be deductible.  See, e.g., Wong v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1989-683. 

When an estate planning engagement involves transactions relating to a business, such as a closely-held corporation of family limited partnership, some consideration should be given to whether costs that might be deductible under Code section 212 are more properly deductible under Code section 162, which allows a deduction for ordinary and necessary business expenses.