The current lifetime gift tax exclusion of $5.12 million represents a viable option for business owners to reduce their estates and pay less in taxes to the IRS. However, wealth advisors say many business owners with sizable assets have failed to take advantage of the opportunity and may pay considerably more in taxes starting in 2013.
The lifetime gift exclusion is expected to roll back to $1 million on January 1, 2013, when the current federal tax law
governing estate and gift taxes expires and new rules are put into place. Many business owners, however, are hesitant to gift such large amounts for fear that they themselves may fall short on funds in the future, according to Bloomberg. Some owners are also failing to make significant tax decisions due to uncertainty about whether the current tax laws
will be allowed to expire or be renewed.
The article also cited the results of an American Institute for CPAs study, in which two-thirds of public accountants reported that less than 10 percent of clients with assets of $10 million or more have utilized even part of the current exemption.
“The global economic issues that we experienced and continue to see today have made individuals far more careful and far more concerned with deciding to part with wealth,” Chris Heilmann, chief fiduciary executive at U.S. Trust, told Bloomberg. “There is an unprecedented opportunity to take advantage [of the tax break before it expires.]”
While a recent Reuters article noted that many business owners are attempting to sell their companies before the tax changes or cement their estate plans, separate data from the Tax Policy Center shows many business owners and high-net worth individuals have made no preparations for the upcoming changes. According to the nonpartisan tax agency, the number of households, businesses or individuals projected to pay estate and gift taxes will increase from 3,300 in 2012 to 52,500 in 2013.