IRS proposes to extend bigger gift and estate tax exclusion amounts beyond 2025

The Internal Revenue Service said Wednesday that individuals taking advantage of the increased gift and estate tax exclusion amounts in effect from 2018 to 2025 won’t have to worry about the time limits in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Under a new proposal, wealthy taxpayers won’t be negatively affected after 2025, when the exclusion amount is scheduled to drop to the old levels from before 2018, prior to the passage of the tax overhaul.

Both the IRS and the Treasury Department issued proposed regulations implementing changes made by last December’s tax overhaul. As a result, individuals who plan to make large gifts between 2018 and 2025 can make them without worrying that they’ll lose the tax breaks of the higher exclusion level once it goes down after 2025. Most of the tax breaks in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for individuals and pass-through entities are scheduled to expire in 2025, although the tax cuts for "corporations" were made permanent by Congress. In this instance, the IRS and the Treasury Department want to make a provision that largely benefits the wealthiest taxpayers last beyond the cutoff date as well.

In general, the IRS noted, gift and estate taxes are calculated under a unified rate schedule on taxable transfers of money, property and other types of assets. Any tax that’s due is determined after applying a credit — which used to be called the unified credit — based on an applicable exclusion amount.

That amount is the sum of the basic exclusion amount, or BEA, established in the statute, and other elements, if they’re applicable, outlined in the new proposed regulations. The credit is first used during life to offset gift tax and any remaining credit is available to reduce or eliminate estate tax.

Last December’s tax law temporarily increased the BEA from $5 million to $10 million for tax years 2018 through 2025, with both dollar amounts adjusted for inflation. For this year, the inflation-adjusted BEA is $11.18 million. In 2026, the BEA will go back to the 2017 level of $5 million as adjusted for inflation.

To address worries that an estate tax might apply to gifts exempt from gift tax by the increased BEA, the proposed regulations include a special rule enabling an estate to figure its estate tax credit using the higher of the BEA applicable to gifts made during a person’s lifetime, or the BEA that’s applicable on the date of their death.

The IRS and the Treasury Department are accepting public comments on the proposed regulations, which include details on how to send the comments.

A man walks past the IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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