Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the federal lifetime gift tax exclusion was increased from $5.45 million to $11.7 million for a single individual and from $10.9 million to $23.4 million for a married couple filing jointly. This meant that business owners could pass this amount of money to children, grandchildren or another chosen beneficiary with absolutely no federal gift, estate and generation skipping taxes. This number was to revert to the original, lower amount when its sunset period of January 1, 2026 arrived. However, President Joe Biden’s proposed tax law changes would decrease the current gifting amount much sooner. The impact of COVID-19 has also depressed business valuations that may allow you to transfer more of the company while using less of your exclusion. Therefore, if you’re planning to gift your children or another beneficiary with your endowment tax-free, now is the best (maybe only) time to do so.
Gifting your lifetime exclusion to your beneficiary is an important step in the business succession planning process, as well as before selling a company. If you’re planning to pass your family business onto your children or preparing to sell your company, taking advantage of the lifetime gift tax exclusion increases the value of your business at a lower cost to you before a transaction. You will need to make sure there is an appropriate amount of time between the gift and a sale of stock to optimize the tax benefit, so planning is important.
STEP-UP IN BASIS
Biden has also proposed to repeal the step-up in basis in an individual’s estate, and instead establish that a cost basis be applied for beneficiaries of the estate. The step-up basis currently requires the tax basis of most estates held at death to be reinstated to the fair market value at the benefactor’s death.
While this change would affect taxes at a federal level, it is important to note that some states have their own estate tax requirements, and some have exclusion levels much lower than the federal.
Sikich’s team of tax and valuation services experts can support you in every aspect of your transaction – from determining the value of it to taking advantage of the federal estate lifetime exemption while it remains this high. Please contact our team to start talking about your situation.