The end of the year brings many planning considerations and 2022 is no exception. Here, we outline key opportunities as they relate to gifting, income tax planning, retirement planning, and general planning in a high interest rate environment. We also include a year-end punch list based on individual goals. If you have any questions about the planning opportunities discussed here, your Brown Brothers Harriman wealth planner would be happy to discuss them further.
Gift and Estate Tax Exemption
In 2022, individuals may give away $12,060,000 (reduced by previous taxable gifts) without incurring a federal gift tax. This exemption amount is scheduled to increase to $12,920,000 per person in 2023. This exemption may be used to make outright gifts, fund new trusts, or add to existing trusts. Gifts can be made using cash, securities, or complex assets, such as an interest in a privately held business or family limited partnership. You can further leverage your exemption if you gift an asset that qualifies for valuation discounts, such as discounts for lack of marketability and lack of control.
If you are inclined to use up some or all of your exemption, sooner is almost always better from a tax perspective because you remove all future appreciation on gifted assets from your estate. In addition, the current exemption amounts, which were doubled in 2018 as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, are scheduled to automatically decrease in 2026. If Congress does not act to eliminate this “sunset,” the exemption amounts will revert to those in place in 2017 (adjusted for inflation). While gifting is an attractive strategy right now given the higher exemption amounts, it is a personal decision that should be driven not only by taxes, but also your values, spending needs, and the gift recipients’ personal and financial situations.
If you would like to transfer assets out of your estate now but are unsure about your future spending needs, consider funding a spousal lifetime access trust (SLAT). This is an irrevocable trust for the benefit of the donor’s spouse (and descendants or other beneficiaries). While the donor cannot access the trust assets, his or her spouse is a permissible beneficiary. This provides a safety net of sorts because if the spouse has unforeseen expenses in the future, he or she may request distributions from the trust. These trusts should not be the primary source of your or your spouse’s support, so it is still important to evaluate your balance sheet and spending needs and feel comfortable with the amount you are giving away.
Annual exclusion gifts are a great way to benefit children, parents, extended family and even friends. The annual exclusion ($16,000 per donee in 2022, or $32,000 per donee for a married couple) is the amount you can gift to any person once per year without using up any of your lifetime federal gift and estate tax exemption.
Annual exclusion gifts can be made outright, to certain types of trusts, to custodial accounts or to college savings plans. Gifts to college savings plans may be “frontloaded,” meaning you can contribute five years’ worth of annual exclusion gifts ($80,000 for an individual or $160,000 for a married couple) now, and treat that gift as being made ratably over the next five years. In some states, such contributions also qualify for a state income tax deduction.
The annual exclusion will rise to $17,000 per donee in 2023.
2022 Election Results and Implications
With the final results of the 2022 elections almost complete, it appears as though Republicans will have a majority in the House, while Democrats will retain control of the Senate. We focus on who controls each chamber of Congress because significant tax legislation is most likely to be passed when one party holds both chambers of Congress and the White House. While that was the case over the past two years, there was no relevant tax legislation passed, so with the House and Senate split, significant tax legislation in the next couple years is even less likely.
For our Massachusetts Clients: Massachusetts voters recently approved a so-called ‘Millionaires Tax’ and beginning in January 2023, residents with annual taxable income over $1 million will be subject to a 4% surtax on that portion of income that exceeds $1 million.
Direct Payment of Tuition and Medical Expenses
Another gifting technique that does not use any lifetime gift tax exemption is the direct payment of tuition and medical expenses. These payments do not use any of your exemption as long as the payment is made directly to the institution. These payments can be made on anyone’s behalf and are not limited to immediate family members.
Income Tax Planning
Tax Loss Harvesting
Realizing losses in your portfolio now can help offset capital gains tax this year and beyond. Losses incurred by tax loss harvesting can be carried forward indefinitely, and up to $3,000 of your capital loss can be used to offset ordinary income each year.
Roth IRA Conversion
The current market may provide a good opportunity to convert your traditional IRA or employer-sponsored plan to a Roth. Roths offer many advantages, including no required minimum distributions (RMDs) and tax-free withdrawals (provided certain requirements are met). Amounts converted will be included in your taxable income, but in a down market the total amount subject to tax will be lower, and when the market recovers, the upside will be captured in the Roth account. Be sure to work with an accountant to understand the tax impact of a conversion; it may make sense to convert your account over time to spread out the tax.
There are many ways to benefit your favorite charities while also offsetting taxable income. You can donate cash, appreciated securities or other complex assets, such as an interest in a private business. You may also utilize a vehicle such as a private foundation, donor-advised fund, or charitable trust. Gifts of long term appreciated securities are often preferable from an income tax perspective because you avoid paying capital gains tax on those holdings (and receive a charitable contribution deduction) while the charity receives the full benefit of the gift because it is not subject to income tax.
Deduction limits vary depending on what and how you give, but if your contribution exceeds the deduction limit, you can carry the excess deduction forward for five years. In 2022, cash gifts made directly to public charities, including donor advised funds, are deductible against 60% of your adjusted gross income while the limit for non-cash gifts is 30% of adjusted gross income.
There are many considerations when deciding how to give. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to your philanthropy, so it is important to think through all options to find which charitable vehicle is most aligned with your philanthropic mission and vision. Contact a member of your relationship team if you are interested in learning more about BBH’s philanthropic advisory services and how we can help your family create a philanthropic legacy.
Required Minimum Distributions
Required minimum distributions (RMDs) must be taken from individual retirement accounts (IRAs) beginning at age 72. These rules apply to traditional IRAs, IRA-based plans such as SEP IRAs and all employer-sponsored plans such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans, but do not apply to Roth IRAs. RMDs are included in your taxable income and may push you into a higher tax bracket. If you do not need the funds in a particular year and are 70 ½ or older, you can make a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) and direct up to $100,000 from your IRA to a qualified charity. Your RMD – and taxable income – will be reduced by the amount of the QCD. Payments must be made directly to the charity from your IRA and may not be made to a donor advised fund or private foundation.
In 2022, you can contribute up to $20,500 to an employer-sponsored plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), plus an additional $6,500 if you are 50 or over. This amount will increase to $22,500 in 2023, with a $7,500 catch-up contribution.
You may also contribute up to $6,000 (or $7,000 if you are 50 or over) to a traditional or Roth IRA. If you are not able to fund a Roth IRA because your income exceeds the limit, you may be able to fund a traditional IRA and then convert it to a Roth IRA at very little tax cost. (The Roth IRA income limits for 2022 are less than $144,000 for single tax filers, and less than $214,000 for those married and filing jointly.) The contribution limit for IRAs in 2023 will increase to $6,500. The catch-up contribution amount will remain $1,000.
The deadline for 2022 IRA contributions is April 18, 2023.
Planning in a High Interest Rate Environment
Inflation and rising interest rates affect so many aspects of our lives – groceries, mortgages, business loans, and so forth – so it comes as no surprise that they affect estate planning strategies as well. Despite high interest rates, however, there are still effective planning techniques you can use to transfer assets on to the next generation and reduce your estate tax exposure.
When the Federal Reserve increases the fed funds rate, there’s usually a corresponding change to other rates, like the applicable federal rates (AFRs) and the 7520 rate (GRAT hurdle rate), which are used for certain estate planning mechanisms. The table below provides some context as to how much these rates have changed over the past year.