The Current Estate Tax Rules
Rick Kelo notes that the US Congress is considering a wide range of tax reform proposals currently. One of the many reform proposals deals with the US Estate Tax and its possible repeal. As per statistics, the Estate Tax in its current form has an impact on only 0.2% of all US estates.
According to the current legislation in place, an American citizen gets to enjoy a life-time exclusion amount of $5.5 at the moment. As a result, a married couple can leave behind $11 to their family and/or friends without the need for any Estate Tax. Of course, both of them need to be American citizens.
The effect of Estate Tax has been considered by Rick Kelo. As per the current law, any property that has been passed at death will get a step-up in terms of tax for determining the future capital gains that occur when the property has been sold.
Illustrating the Effect
Consider an asset that has been purchased for $1,000. When this property is sold for $2,000, the taxpayer will have enjoyed a capital gain of $1,000. Now, if this asset was instead passed after the death of the taxpayer, the recipient’s tax basis will be increased to match the asset’s value at the date of the decedent’s death.
Continuing with the example, the first taxpayer will have bought the asset at $1,000. At his or her death, consider the value of the asset to be $1,500. The taxpayer who inherits the asset ends up selling the asset for $2,000. Now, for this taxpayer, the tax basis was increased to $1,500. As a result his or her capital gain after the sale is just $500.
What Does the Repeal Bring?
The repeal of the estate tax can affect this transaction. Its repeal may actually cause the step up in the tax basis to be removed as well. Instead, it might be replaced by the carry over basis. In the case of the previous example, the taxpayer inheriting the asset will have a tax basis of $1,000 which was the original basis. As a result, the sale of the asset at $2,000 will bring a profit of $1,000.
While possibly welcome, Rick Kelo believes that repealing the Estate Tax might not actually be that much of a benefit. In fact, there is a chance that the repeal will lead to an increase in the taxes that must be paid than what is currently required.