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In contrast to this time last year, when clients were frantically gifting to save estate tax before adverse tax law changes, this year has returned to the norm, with more traditional and routine end of year planning.
In December 2012, Congress at the last minute preserved the $5 million exemption instead of allowing it to drop to $1 million. This December, no law is imminent to reduce the $5 million exemption (indexed for inflation, so it is $5,250,000 per person).
So is this the calm before the storm? There is nothing to indicate significant changes in the estate and gift world are eminent. Although President Obama has proposed reducing the exemption to $3.5 million, the legislation would not be effective until 2018, and who knows if it would pass. Also, a proposed tax bill by Michigan Republican David Camp, will focus on non-estate and gift tax provisions. Last week he was quoted in the Daily Tax Report saying "I don’t think [estate and gift] policy needs the reform the rest of the Code does."
Thus, for wealthy taxpayers concerned about estate tax and intending to reduce or eliminate it, doing so early in 2014, rather than rushing to the finish line in December, would appear prudent. The only caveat is that although the exemption may not go down, there are other tax proposals that would limit the advantages of gifting. These would include eliminating or curtailing GRATs, sales to Defective Trusts, Dynasty Trusts, and discounts for transfers between family members. There is a danger restrictions pertaining to one or more of these areas could be enacted in 2014.
Read more discussion of estate planning topics affecting Virginia residents and U.S. citizens at Dedon on Estate Planning.
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