During 2010 the estate tax was temporarily repealed. This repeal was in place due to provisions that were included in the Bush era tax cuts.
Under the laws as they existed during 2010, the estate tax would return in 2011. The amount of the federal estate tax credit or exclusion would be just $1 million. The top rate for estates in excess of $1 million was scheduled to come in at 55 percent.
In 2009 the estate tax exclusion was $3.5 million, and the top rate was 45 percent. It seemed that come 2011, we would be facing a huge tax increase.
Fortunately, in December of 2010 a new tax relief measure was passed through Congress. This measure is called the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.
Under terms contained within this act, the estate tax exclusion was set at $5 million for 2011 and 2012. Ongoing annual adjustments for inflation were mandated. A maximum rate of 40 percent was put into place. The law was scheduled to sunset at the end of 2012 again, but fortunately Congress made it permanent in 2013.
For 2012 the Internal Revenue Service raised the exact amount of the federal estate tax exclusion to $5.12 million to account for inflation. Another adjustment was applied in 2013, bringing the amount of the exclusion up to $5.25 million.
2013 is rapidly coming to a close, so the IRS has announced the amount of the estate tax exclusion for 2014. An additional $90,000 will be added to the existing $5.25 million exclusion. Next year the exclusion will be $5.34 million.
Exclusion Afforded to Each Taxpayer
It should be noted that this is a per person exclusion. Each individual taxpayer is entitled to an exclusion of $5.34 million. As a result, if you are married you and your spouse would have a combined exclusion amount of $10.68 million next year.
If you were to pass away next year, your spouse can take some legal steps that would still allow him or her to have a total exclusion of $10.68 million, because the estate tax exclusion is portable between spouses.
Annual Gift Tax Exclusion
In addition to the estate tax there is also a federal gift tax. The two taxes are unified. The $5.34 million exclusion that we will see next year will apply to transfers by gift during your life or by inheritance at death. Because it covers taxable gifts that you give while you're living along with the value of the assets that will be passed to your heirs after you die, the gifts you make that are in excess of the annual exemption will reduce the exemption amount at your death.
The annual gift tax exclusion is the amount you can give without filing a gift tax return or reducing your estate tax exclusion. You don't use up any of your unified lifetime exclusion unless you make a gift to a single person during a calendar year that exceeds the amount of this annual exclusion.
During 2013 the amount of this exclusion has been $14,000. Because of the fact that the Internal Revenue Service raised the lifetime unified exclusion, you may wonder if the annual gift tax exclusion was increased as well.
Unfortunately, the annual gift tax exclusion is not going to be raised for the 2014 calendar year. The $14,000 figure will remain in place next year. Remember, however, it is a per person exclusion, so you and your spouse can gift $14,000 each to your daughter and her husband, a total of $56,000 per year without filing a return or adversely affecting your lifetime exemption.