How Can You Reduce or Avoid High Trust Taxes?

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By Sandra K. Dennison, CPA

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal describes a strategy to avoid taxes when you put money into a trust and when you take it out. Here’s a summary of how it works:

Distributes net income to lower tax bracket beneficiary

In cases where Mom & Dad’s trust has a higher tax bracket than their beneficiary’s, there is an opportunity to save tax dollars. Trusts have fewer tax brackets and higher tax rates than individuals who have more tax brackets and lower tax rates. Consider that a trust with as little as $12,150 in assets pays the maximum tax rate – 43.4% while individuals can earn over $400,000 before they pay 43.4%. It seems clear that paying at the individual tax rate is better than paying the trust rate, in most cases.

You also have the option to look at which tax strategy (trust or individual) makes the most sense – if you get it done in the first 65 days of the year. This extended “decision time” is only available to trusts and beneficiaries.

Although appealing, distributions should not be made just for the sake of tax saving and certainly not without expert counsel. Distributing funds from a trust could produce negative consequences that far outweigh the tax savings. Respect for the purpose of the trust is more important.

Read more at: “How a Trust Can Cut Taxes” written by Arden Dale for the Wall Street Journal.

You’re 70 ½ and beginning to take your Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)

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By Robin Crouch

All the hard work you put into saving for retirement is starting to pay off. How long will your nest egg last? Retirement planning doesn’t end when you retire.

It’s April 2014, so many of you are have had your taxes prepared for 2013. Maybe you had your taxes done by a professional tax-preparer, or maybe you’re doing it yourself – hello Turbo Tax! [Read more...]

2014 Federal Gift and Estate Tax Update

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By Attorney Ted Brown

Effective January 1, 2014, the unified federal gift and estate tax exemption was increased to $5.34 million dollars. This change reflects an adjustment for inflation from last year’s 5.25 million exemption amount. In January 2013 as part of the “fiscal cliff “ negotiations, Congress established the limit at $5.25 million to be adjusted annually for inflation.

What this change means is that an individual can now give up to $5.34 million during their lifetime, or pass away with an estate valued up to $5.34 million dollars, without paying any Federal gift or estate tax.

The annual gift reporting limit remains at $14,000 per person. Total annual gifts less than this amount do not need to be reported and are not subject to gift tax. Total annual gifts in excess of this amount count against the donor’s $5.34 million lifetime gift exemption.

If an estate goes through probate, how much taxes do we pay?

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By Associate Attorney Keith Stevens

In the last couple weeks, clients have asked me the following and similar questions:

“If an estate goes through probate, how much taxes do we pay?”

“So if we avoid probate, then we don’t have to pay taxes, right?”

While these questions reflect the normal concern about after-death expenses, they also combine two entirely different issues into one. Let’s untangle these issues. [Read more...]