Estate Tax Planning for 2017 Tax Reform

Major tax reform legislation was signed into law late last year that impacts not only the federal income tax but also other taxes potentially affecting your estate plan (such as the estate, gift, and generation skipping transfer taxes).

The new legislation doubles the estate and gift tax exclusion amount and the GST exemption to $10 million (to be adjusted for inflation), effective for decedents dying and transfers made after 2017 and before 2026. After 2025, the exclusion amount will decrease to the amount calculated under the old law ($5.49 million for 2017).

Additional changes to individual, corporate, and pass-through entity taxation provisions will also impact many estate plans. Some of the provisions included in the law that may affect your plans include:

  • Increase in charitable contribution limit for cash donations – the legislation increases the amount of cash contributions to charitable organizations that may be deducted from 50% of a taxpayer’s income to 60% of income for tax years after 2017 and before 2026.
  • New deduction for certain business income earned through pass-through entities – the legislation creates a new deduction for individuals, generally equal to 20% of the qualified business income received by the individual from a pass-through business. Certain service businesses (such as law, accounting, investment management, etc.) are excluded, and there are other income limits and conditions placed on the receipt of the deduction.
  • Partner loss limitation – Partners will no longer be able to deduct losses in excess of their basis in their partnership interest.
  • Extension of the holding period for “carried interest” – the legislation prevents individuals holding a so-called carried interest in private equity or hedge funds or similar investment vehicles from claiming long-term capital gain treatment on gains realized from the disposition of such an interest until the interest has been held for three years (compared to the one-year holding period required for other capital assets).

In light of the numerous changes made by the legislation, we recommend a review of your estate plan to make sure that it continues to satisfy your tax- and family-related objectives while remaining as flexible as possible.

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