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Tax issues

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Taypayer Bill of Rights

With the tax filing season having started on February 12, 2021, for individual tax return filers, here is a reminder to all filers that, in 2015, Congress enacted the Taxpayer Bill of Rights in Section 7803(a)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code to ensure that all taxpayers have rights in dealing with the IRS. Here is the link to the full description of these rights as set forth on the IRS website: www.irs.gov/taxpayer-bill-of-rights  

As codified, these rights are as follows: 


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Thursday, December 10, 2020

Estate Tax Exemption And Annual Gift Tax Exclusion For 2021


The Internal Revenue Service announced at the end of October the official estate and gift tax limits for 2021: The estate and gift tax exemption is $11.7 million per individual, up from $11.58 million in 2020. That means an individual could leave $11.7 million to heirs and pay no federal estate or gift tax, while a married couple could shield $23.


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Thursday, October 15, 2020

Estate Planning Strategies to Consider in an Election Year


With a push by the Democratic party to return federal estate taxes to their historic norms, taxpayers need to act now before Congress passes legislation that could adversely impact their estates. Currently, the federal estate and gift tax exemption is set at $11.58 million per taxpayer. Assets included in a decedent’s estate that exceed the decedent’s remaining exemption available at death are taxed at a federal rate of 40 percent (with some states adding an additional state estate tax). However, each asset included in the decedent’s estate receives an income tax basis adjustment so that the asset’s basis equals its fair market value on the date of the decedent's death.
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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Potential Tax Law Changes That Would Affect Estate Planning


The 2020 election is almost upon us. The past has taught us that trying to predict the results of an election are futile at best. Still, estate planning clients need timely counsel as to how the election may impact their financial futures. Estate planning attorneys strive to help clients stay informed and suggest opportunities for clients to respond to changes. While we do not know exactly what the future holds, we do have strong clues as to what the tax laws may look like if the balance of power shifts in 2021 from Republican to Democrat hands.


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Thursday, January 16, 2020

The SECURE Act and Your Estate Plan


On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act). The Act became effective on January 1, 2020 and impacts retirement accounts. Among other things, the Act increases the start date for required minimum distributions (RMDs) from 70 ½ years of age to 72 years of age, eliminates the contribution age limit for qualified accounts, and allows penalty-free withdrawals of $5,000 for the birth or adoption of a new child. One of the more  significant and key provisions of the Act changes the way designated beneficiaries receive the funds after the account owner has died. 

In the past, designated beneficiaries had the opportunity to “stretch the account” – taking distributions over their individual life expectancy.
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Thursday, September 12, 2019

529 Plans and Their Advantages


A 529 plan, otherwise known as a qualified tuition plan, is a tax-sheltered way of saving for education. 529 plans are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions, and offer several estate planning benefits.

Distributions from the 529 plan, if used for the beneficiary’s qualified education expenses, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, equipment, and a limited amount of room and board, for students at colleges, junior colleges, technical schools, and even, with limitations, primary and secondary schools, are income tax-free.

Even though you can change beneficiaries or get your money back, 529 plan contributions are considered “completed gifts” for federal gift tax purposes.  As such, they are eligible for gift tax annual exclusion, currently $15,000 per year per person, $30,000 for married couples, for any number of recipients.
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Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Grantor Trust - It's an Income Tax Concept


Many kinds of trusts are used in estate planning.  Trusts can be revocable or irrevocable, and their primary purpose may be to provide for such things as a means for planning for incapacity or disability, minimizing or eliminating estate tax, promoting a charitable purpose, or even avoiding probate, to name a few.  They can be set up for the use and benefit of the creator of the trust or for other individuals. The creator of a trust is known as the grantor.  The person or a member of the class of people for whom the trust assets  are intended to benefit is known as the beneficiary (which could be or include the grantor), and the person or entity that manages the trust is the trustee.
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Thursday, July 11, 2019

State Taxation of Trusts


On June 21, 2019, the US Supreme Court ruled in North Carolina Department of Revenue v. Kaestner 1992 Family Trust that the presence of in-state beneficiaries alone does not permit a state to tax trust income that has not been distributed to the beneficiaries where the beneficiaries have (1) no right to demand the income and (2) no guarantee that they would eventually receive the income from the trust. 

In 1992, Joseph Lee Rice III created a trust for the benefit of his children. The trust was to be governed by New York law (Rice’s home state), with the initial trustee residing in New York and the trust custodians residing in Massachusetts. The original trust provided that the trustee would have “absolute discretion” to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries “in such amounts and proportions” as the trustee might “from time to time” decide.
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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Federal Estate Tax Portability


This is a written summary of the availability of “portability” under the federal estate tax laws.  

“Portability” refers to the process of transferring a deceased spouse’s unused federal estate tax exclusion or exemption to the surviving spouse.  This allows the surviving spouse to add the deceased spouse’s unused exclusion to their own personal federal estate tax exclusion thus allowing the surviving spouse to increase the amount they can transfer on their death, without incurring federal estate tax.

Currently, the federal estate tax rate is 40%.  As a general rule, all assets a person owns at the time of their death are subject to federal estate tax.
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Thursday, March 21, 2019

The “Death” Tax that Applies to Gifts


In the “old days” people made annual gifts to minimize taxes.  Today, that’s probably going to increase taxes for most families.

Lifetime gifting may be a good strategy to minimize estate tax, but it can have just the opposite result as to income tax. With the high estate tax exclusion amount ($11,400,000) and the top income tax rates at 37% (plus a surtax), the focus in estate planning has changed. The majority of Americans don't have to worry about estate tax under current law, so now the focus should be on their exposure to income tax.
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Monday, October 8, 2018

The 2014 Farm Bill Expired, Now What?


The Farm bill covers the country’s agricultural funding, conservation efforts, and food aid.  Congress passes a new farm bill every five years.  The five-year timeline is triggered by sunset provisions (expiration dates) for specific programs contained in the previous bill. 

On September 30, 2018, the 2014 Farm Bill expired and Congress has not yet passed an extension for the 2014 Bill.  Without an extension for the 2014 previsions, the federal price supports revert to the 1949 levels.
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