It’s worthwhile to understand the rules about taxes that might be triggered by your generosity, says Forbes in the article “How To Avoid Taxes When Giving Big-Dollar Gifts.” Did you know that you can give any one person as much as $15,000 every year, without having to pay any gift taxes? You can give any number of people up to $15,000 and they don’t even need to be relatives.
Note that if and when any gift taxes are due, it’s the giver who pays any gift taxes, and not the recipient.
Therefore, if you think the world of your next-door neighbor and give him a gift of $20,000, you might owe taxes on the $5,000 above the $15,000 limit, but only if your total gift exceeds your lifetime exclusion amount, which is currently set at $11,400 (2019 limit). You don’t have to be generous with cash only. Gifts can come in the form of stock, a boat or jewelry. Just remember to keep it under $15,000, so as not to incur any gift taxes.
The $15,000 limit is per person, not per couple, so if you want to give someone $15,000 and your spouse also wants to give them a $15,000 gift, that works. You can double the gift, while still staying under the annual limit.
If your gift is going to a charitable organization—a registered 501(c)(3), you won’t owe anything in gift taxes.
In addition to this $15,000 annual cap, wealthy gift givers should keep in mind a the current $11.4 million maximum that is known as the lifetime exclusion. That’s the limit in 2019, and it will rise next year. This governs all the gifting you do during your lifetime. That’s outside of the annual exclusion of $15,000.
Anything more than that in the way of gifts, and you or your estate will have to pay gift tax. The top rate for the overage is high-40%. However, you’ll have to be mighty generous to get near that limit.
Here’s what’s nice: you won’t have to pay gift taxes every single time you go over that $15,000 limit. Let’s say you give your son $50,000 in 2019. Your gift is $35,000 above the ceiling, which is taxable. However, rather than write a check for taxes to the IRS now, you count it against the $11.4 million lifetime exclusion. You now have $11.365 million of lifetime gift exclusion remaining.
The best way to go about gifting, is to make sure that your desired gifts are working in concert with your estate plan. One reason for gifting “with warm hands” is to reduce the taxable size of the estate, but there are many other ways to do this. There are also instances when gifts need to be reported to the IRS, even if no taxes are owed on them.
Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney about your gifting strategy, how it works with your estate plan and what gift tax forms you do, or do not, need to file.
Reference: Forbes (October 14, 2019) “How To Avoid Taxes When Giving Big-Dollar Gifts”