Estate Tax After the Fiscal Cliff

04/16/2013

Estate Tax After the Fiscal Cliff

After threatening to go over the fiscal cliff, the gift tax, estate tax, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax have come in for a soft landing. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA 2012), enacted on January 2, 2013, permanently extended the $5 million (as indexed) gift tax and estate tax applicable exclusion amount and GST tax exemption. It also permanently extended portability of the gift tax and estate tax applicable exclusion amount between spouses. However, it also increased the top gift, estate, and GST tax rate to 40% starting in 2013. A number of other provisions were also permanently extended.

Top Gift, Estate, and GST Tax Rate

In 2012, there was a 35% top tax rate for gift, estate, and GST taxes. It was scheduled to increase to 55% in 2013. ATRA 2012 provides a permanent 40% top rate, starting in 2013.

Applicable Exclusion Amount

You have an applicable exclusion amount that can protect a certain amount of property from the federal gift tax and estate tax. The basic exclusion amount was $5,120,000 in 2012 ($5 million as indexed for inflation), but was scheduled to drop to $1 million in 2013. ATRA 2012 permanently extends the basic exclusion amount at $5 million as indexed for inflation.

Portability of Exclusion

The estate of a person who died in 2011 or 2012 could transfer the decedent's unused applicable exclusion amount to his or her surviving spouse, who could use the unused exclusion, along with his or her own basic exclusion amount, to shelter property from gift and estate tax (referred to as portability). The provision was scheduled to sunset in 2013. ATRA 2012 has permanently extended the portability provision.

GST Tax Exemption

You have a GST tax exemption that can protect a certain amount of property from the GST tax. The GST tax exemption was $5,120,000 in 2012 ($5 million as indexed for inflation), but was scheduled to drop to $1 million (as indexed for inflation) in 2013. ATRA 2012 permanently extends the GST tax exemption at $5 million as indexed for inflation (it is $5,250,000 in 2013).

State Death Taxes

In 2012, your estate could take an estate tax deduction for death taxes (estate tax or inheritance tax) paid to a state. In 2013, it was scheduled to change back into a credit for state death taxes, as available back in 2001. However, ATRA 2012 permanently extends the deduction for state death taxes.

Conservation Easement Exclusion

An estate tax exclusion is available for qualified conservation easements. In 2012, the exclusion was generally available if the property was located anywhere in the United States. In 2013, the exclusion was scheduled to be available, as in 2001, only if the property was located within a limited number of miles from a National Wilderness Preservation System or an Urban National Forest. ATRA 2012 permanently extends the provision that the property can generally be located anywhere in the United States and the mileage requirements do not apply.

Estate Tax Deferral for Closely Held Business

Where the value of a closely held business exceeds 35% of the value of the adjusted gross estate, payment of estate tax attributable to the business can be deferred for up to 5 years and then paid in installments over 10 years, all at favorable interest rates. In 2012, a closely held business could have 45 partners or shareholders. In 2013, the permissible number of partners or shareholders was scheduled to drop to 15, as in 2001. ATRA 2012 permanently extends the provision allowing up to 45 partners or shareholders.