Women gave nearly $5 billion more to their heirs than men did in 2005, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service data by Grant Thornton.

The statistics represented a reversal from the IRS's last study of gender in 1997, when men gave nearly $3 billion more than women, or $17.6 billion compared to $14.7 billion. The IRS's most recent quarterly Statistics of Income bulletin showed that in 2005 female donors reported giving $21.7 billion in gifts, while male donors gave only $16.8 billion.

The IRS data comes from gift tax returns (Form 709), which taxpayers generally must file if they have given any individual more than the yearly gift tax exemption ($11,000 in 2005). Gifts reported on Form 709 are most often made to heirs and are rarely charitable deductions, which the IRS tracks in other ways.

Women may not be exploiting sophisticated tax-planning options, such as trusts, as often as men. The data shows that 26 percent of men make their gifts through trusts, while only 22 percent of women do. Conversely, 78 percent of women use the direct gift method, while 74 percent of men do.

The IRS data also revealed differences in the kinds of assets given by women and men, with women providing more gifts that are less often used as part of tax savings techniques. Women were more likely to give cash, as opposed to assets that could appreciate or qualify for valuation discounts.

Almost 72 percent of women's gifts came from cash and real estate, compared to only 67.3 percent for men. Men gave a larger percentage of stock and partnerships. Valuation discounts were applied to 16.5 percent of all gifts in 2005 for a total of $3.1 billion.

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