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Saturday, March 09, 2019

Bernie Sanders’ Tax Proposals

We all know that come 2025 the aggregate transfers covered by the unified credit for estate and gift taxes will revert to pre-Trump levels (subject to adjustments for inflation), thus ensnaring more taxpayers in the estate and gift tax web. Of course, should a Democrat be re-elected in 2020, changes in taxes to the higher side may occur even sooner than 2025.

A recent tax bill filed by Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate for President, gives some insight about what tax legislation might look like if a Democrat is elected – more so if he is elected, but perhaps also as to other Democratic candidates.

Some key changes he would make to the high side include:

a. Increases in estate, gift and GST rates, to a maximum of 77% for members of the billionaire’s club;

b reduction in the unified credit exclusion amount to $3,500,000;

c. elimination of entity valuation discounts as to entity assets that are not business assets;

d. imposing a 10 year minimum term for grantor retained annuity trusts;

e. subjecting grantor trusts to estate tax inclusion at the death of the deemed owner;

f. limiting the GST exemption to a 50 year term; and

g. reduction in the annual gift tax exclusion.

These changes would be good news for tax planners, and bad news for those of moderate or higher wealth.

The old Chinese curse says – may you live in interesting times. I think most of us can agree, at least from a tax perspective if not a political perspective, we are all cursed under that measure.

S.309 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Beneficiaries Hit with Transferee Liability Suit for Estate Taxes 19 Years After Date of Death

A recent case illustrates how beneficiaries and recipients of property from a decedent do not receive the property free and clear from estate tax liabilities. If estate taxes are not paid, the IRS can seek collection of the taxes from such beneficiaries and recipients as transferees under Code §6324(a)(2). And it may be a long, long time before the IRS ‘comes a knocking.’

The case illustrates to us that:

a. Transferee liability is not limited to those who receive a gift or bequest pursuant to a last will or disposition of property being administered under a revocable trust. Instead, it extends to recipients of all property included in the gross estate including:

     1. Transferees who received lifetime gifts that are included in the gross estate under Section 2035 because made within 3 years of death;

     2. Gift recipients whose gift was a discharge of indebtedness to the decedent;

     3. Transferees who receive the property as surviving joint tenants;

     4. Property passing to remaindermen when the decedent had a life tenancy in the property;

     5. Life insurance proceeds on the life of the decedent;

b. The IRS may take a long time before asserting transferee liability. The statute of limitations is 10 years from the date the assessment of tax is made against the estate. Here, the IRS filed suit in the 9th year of that 10 year period (and 19 years after the date of death).

c. The IRS will pursue transferee liability even when the estate tax liability is not that significant. Here, the unpaid tax was $28,939 (but with interest and penalties the amount sought was $65,874.80.

There are numerous Code provisions and procedures for relieving a fiduciary from liability for such taxes - but this is not the case for beneficiaries. Conservative recipients of property may not want to spend their inheritances or received property until they know the 3 year assessment period has expired without an assessment.

U.S. v. Ringling, 123 AFTR2d 2019-XXXX (DC SD 2/21/19)