2022 estate, gift, and GST tax exemptions announced by IRS

By Sarah M. Richards

The total amount that a US citizen or resident can transfer to another individual free of estate, gift, or Generation-Skipping Transfer taxes (collectively, the “transfer taxes”) has been set at a base amount, which is subject to an annual adjustment for inflation. The base amount currently is $10,000,000 (set in 2017).

What is the transfer tax exemption for 2022?

On November 10, 2021, the IRS announced that the 2022 transfer tax exemption amount is $12,060,000 ($10,000,000 base amount plus an inflation adjustment of $2,060,000).

The tax rate applicable to transfers above the exemption is currently 40%.

What is the gift tax annual exclusion amount for 2022?

The gift tax annual exclusion allows taxpayers to make certain gifts without eroding the taxpayer’s lifetime exemption amount. The gift tax annual exclusion in 2022 will increase to $16,000 per donee.

What payments are excluded from the annual and lifetime gift tax exemption?

A donor may exclude from his annual and lifetime gift tax exemption all gifts to his/her spouse as long as the spouse is a US citizen, payments of tuition made directly to the donee’s educational institution, and payments for medical expenses (including medical insurance) paid directly to the donee’s medical or medical insurance provider.

There is a separate gift tax annual exclusion for gifts to spouses who are not citizens of the United States: that amount adjusts to $164,000 in 2022.

Are the current high transfer tax thresholds permanent?

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was enacted in December 2017, provided that the current $10,000,000 base exemption amount for the estate, gift, and Generation-Skipping Transfer taxes is effective through 2025, and reverts (on January 1, 2026) to the $5,000,000 base exemption amount established by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Recent legislative proposals have included dropping the transfer tax exemption by half. The current version of the Build Back Better Act does not appear to include this provision, but until the Act is signed into law you should be aware that the exemption amount recently announced for 2022 may change.

How have the federal transfer tax exemption amounts changed over the years?

The transfer tax exemptions (and the highest marginal transfer tax rates) have undergone several sweeping changes in the last two decades. The exemption amounts have been fully unified only since 2011.

Since 1997, the estate tax, gift tax, and Generation-Skipping Transfer tax lifetime exemption amounts have changed as follows:

Year Estate & Gift* lifetime exemption: GST lifetime exemption
1997  $600,000   $1,000,000
1998  $625,000  $1,000,000
1999  $650,000  $1,010,000
2000  $675,000  $1,030,000
2001  $675,000  $1,060,000
2002 $1,000,000 $1,100,000
2003 $1,000,000 $1,120,000
2004-2005* $1,500,000  $1,500,000
2006-2008* $2,000,000 $2,000,000
2009* $3,500,000 $3,500,000
2010* $5,000,000** ***
2011 $5,000,000⁑ $5,000,000
2012 $5,120,000 $5,120,000
2013 $5,250,000 $5,250,000
2014  $5,340,000  $5,340,000
2015  $5,430,000  $5,430,000
2016  $5,450,000  $5,450,000
2017  $5,490,000  $5,490,000
2018  $11,180,000⁑⁑  $11,180,000
2019  $11,400,000  $11,400,000
2020  $11,580,000  $11,580,000
2021  $11,700,000  $11,700,000
2022  $12,060,000  $12,060,000

* Between 2002 and 2010, the lifetime exclusion for gifts was capped at $1,000,000.
**In 2010, estates had the option to choose between a “no estate tax” system that afforded limited step-up in tax cost for the decedent’s assets, or a $5,000,000 federal estate tax exemption with full step-up in tax cost.
***In 2010, the GST tax exemption was $5,000,000, but the GST tax rate was 0.
⁑ The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 set a base amount of $5,000,000, subject to inflation.
⁑⁑ The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act set a base amount of $10,000,000, subject to inflation; the Act provides that the base amount sunsets and reverts to prior law effective January 1, 2026.

What does this mean for you?

The changing landscape of federal transfer taxes has led to challenges and opportunities in estate planning. In view of the recent changes and the scheduled “sunsetting” of the estate, gift, and Generation-Skipping Transfer tax exemption amounts, please consult with your Nixon Peabody LLP attorney about your estate plan

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Sarah M. Richards


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