There were many who predicted significant changes to the current federal estate and gift tax law in the past year, but nothing has materialized as of this writing. Many predicted that the amount that would be subject to tax would be greater due to a lowering of the exemption amount, and that the rates would be higher. It just didn’t happen. Indeed, the exemption is going up.
According to the IRS website and Kiplinger, the federal estate tax exemption is going up for 2022. The amount is adjusted each year for inflation. It’s important to remember that the current law will sunset at the end of 2025, at which point the amounts and rates will revert to those in effect in 2016, which are significantly lower, meaning more estates will be taxable.
2022 Federal Estate Tax Exemption
Generally, when you die, your estate is not subject to the federal estate tax if the value of your estate is less than the exemption amount. For people who pass away in 2022, the exemption amount will be $12.06 million ($11.7 million for 2021). For a married couple, that comes to a combined exemption of $24.12 million.
This is also known as the Basic Exclusion amount. It is as high as it’s ever been. The annual exclusion for gifts was $11,000 (2004-2005), $12,000 (2006-2008), $13,000 (2009-2012) and $14,000 (2013-2017). In 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021, the annual exclusion is $15,000. Again, in 2022, the annual exclusion is $16,000.
Federal Estate Tax Rate
Only a small percentage of Americans die with an estate worth $12 million or more. But for estates that do, the federal tax bill is significant. Most of the estate’s value is taxed at a 40% rate.
According to Kiplinger, the first $1 million in an estate is taxed at lower rates – from 18% to 39%. That results in a total tax of $345,800 on the first $1 million, which is $54,200 less than what the tax would be if the entire estate were taxed at the top rate. Once the estate’s value exceeds $1 million, the excess is taxed at the 40% rate.
That’s the picture from a federal perspective. What about Maine? Yes, Maine has an estate tax, with an exemption level of $5.87 million. The Estate tax rates range from 8% – 12%, which is one of the lowest rates among the states that have an estate tax. There is no tax on heirs, so no Inheritance tax.
Federal Gift Tax
Gifts can be taxable if they are big enough. First, there’s the exclusion of what you don’t need to report each year. This would apply to gifts to any one individual in the calendar year by a taxpayer. You could double the amount for gifts from a married couple filing jointly. The current exclusion is $16,000. It has increased over the years. Those gifts that exceed the exclusion Amount are reported and cumulatively are not taxable as gifts until they exceed a total of the exemption amount during your lifetime, currently over $12 million.
By the time 2026 rolls around, we will likely hear much more about estate and gift taxes. The current law is slated to sunset December 31, 2025 and go back to 2016 levels January 1, 2026.
All taxpayers should consult with their own professional tax and legal advisors when making estate and significant gifting plans to take their unique facts and circumstances into account.