Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Gifting Season Approaches

Gifting can be an easy way to transfer your wealth to the next generation. Currently, each person is entitled to gift up to $12,000 per individual, per year, without incurring any gift tax or having to file a gift tax return. Gifts that are less than $12,000 per donee per year are typically called "annual exclusion gifts".

Also, during your life, you can gift up to $1,000,000, on top of your annual exclusion gifts, to others without having to pay gift tax. However, any gifts in excess of the annual exclusion will require a gift tax return. Furthermore, dipping into the $1,000,000 "bucket" reduces the amount that you can pass at your death free from estate tax.

If you would like to reduce the size of your taxable estate and see the appreciation from transferring your wealth to kids, grandkids, or others, gifts can be a great solution.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Stepped-Up Basis - One Benefit of Dying (But not for you)

Dying is such a bad thing that the IRS has a couple of ways to help your loved-ones deal with the loss. One of the tax benefits is a concept called "stepped up basis" which applies in the area of capital gains tax. What this means is that assets you own at your death, with a few exceptions, will have a new tax basis equal to the value on your date of death. In order to understand the benefit of this tax benefit, consider this illustration:

You bought shares of a stock for $10,000. That is your cost basis. Your investment does great (unlike my selections) and it has increased in value to $15,000. You decide to take cash out and take your money. You will be capital gains tax on the increase of $5,000. (Market value less your cost basis.)

However, let's say right before you were able to sell the stock, you step on a rake in your yard, stumble backwards and get hit by a Hummer and killed instantly. Your estate would be able sell the stock and the new cost basis would be equal to the market value at the time of your death ($15,000 in this case.) Thus, if the stock was sold the same day, there would be no capital gains tax at all. Not a bad deal...just not for you.

And who said there was nothing good about dying?