A recent nj.com recent post asks, “Will the IRS know if I gift money to my grandchildren?” The article explains that federal and state tax agencies do not have any direct way of knowing how much is being gifted. They rely on taxpayers self-reporting gifts. It’s the honor system.
However, the tax authorities may discover this when you or the recipient are audited, by matching transactions reported for certain assets, or because banks are required to report cash transfers in excess of $10,000. Because it’s pretty simple to avoid paying gift tax, it doesn’t seem worth the risk of getting caught trying to skirt the rules. Understanding the gift tax is the best way to avoid issues.
The IRS stipulates that a gift is “the transfer of property by one individual to another, while receiving nothing, or less than full value, in return.” A gift is never taxable to the recipient, so only the person making the gift has to consider the gift tax.
The amount you can give will not be subject to gift tax, if the gift amounts are less than the annual and lifetime exemptions. The annual gift exemption is currently $15,000 per recipient, which means that you can give up to $15,000 each year to an unlimited number of people with no reporting requirement at all.
You’re supposed to complete a U.S. Gift Tax Return (IRS Form 709) if you exceed the exemption, but don’t panic. Although you are required to file a gift tax return, it is highly unlikely any gift tax will be due.
That’s because gifts in excess of the annual exemption offset your lifetime exemption, before any gift tax is due.
The IRS can impose penalties if you they discover that you failed to file a gift tax return, even if no gift tax was due. Also note that the gift tax is integrated with the estate tax, which applies to amounts transferred upon your death in excess of your remaining lifetime exemption.
If you’re planning on making a gift to help pay another’s college costs or medical expenses, make the payment directly to the educational or healthcare institution, because that payment isn’t considered a gift.
Ask our estate planning lawyers about any state gift, estate and inheritance taxes by submitting our online form to request a consultation.