Thursday, November 19, 2015

Can Correction of a Scrivener’s Error Retroactively Fix a Tax Problem with a Trust?

Yes, in a recently released Private Letter Ruling in regard to an irrevocable trust.

There were actually two problems with the trust. First, the settlors retained powers to change the beneficial interests of the trust, creating an incomplete gift. Second, those retained powers also created a problem under Code Section 2036.

The trust was reformed in state court to create both a completed gift and to take away the retained powers that were problematic under Code Section 2036. The IRS allowed the reformation to implement the revised tax consequences, retroactive to the creation of the trust.

Does this mean that such corrections will always be respected retroactively by the IRS? A key requirement here was that the changes were made to effectuate the settlors’ original intent. This was evidenced by the other provisions of the trust agreement, and an affidavit by the attorney who drafted the trust. Absent those facts, it is unlikely that the IRS would have allowed such retroactive treatment – scrivener’s error or otherwise.

PLR 201544005

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