What Is The Federal Estate Tax?

The Federal estate tax is a tax on the right to transfer property at death. The tax, reported on Form 706, United States Estate (and Generation Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, is applied to estates for which at-death gross assets, the “gross estate,” exceed the filing threshold. Included in gross estate are real estate, cash, stocks, bonds, businesses, and decedent-owned life insurance policies. Deductions are allowed for administrative expenses, indebtedness, taxes, casualty loss, and charitable and marital transfers. The taxable estate is calculated as gross estate less allowable deductions.

The IRS Estate Tax page provides further information concerning the estate tax. Covered are topics including:

Frequently Asked Questions on Estate Taxes
Gift Tax

Frequently Asked Questions on Gift Taxes

Filing Estate and Gift Tax Returns

Forms and Publications – Estate and Gift Tax

Publication 950, Introduction to Estate and Gift Taxes

What’s New – Estate and Gift Tax

Once you have accounted for the Gross Estate, certain deductions (and in special circumstances, reductions to value) are allowed in arriving at your “Taxable Estate.” These deductions may include mortgages and other debts, estate administration expenses, property that passes to surviving spouses and qualified charities. The value of some operating business interests or farms may be reduced for estates that qualify.

After the net amount is computed, the value of lifetime taxable gifts (beginning with gifts made in 1977) is added to this number and the tax is computed. The tax is then reduced by the available unified credit. Presently, the amount of this credit reduces the computed tax so that only total taxable estates and lifetime gifts that exceed $1,000,000 will actually have to pay tax. In its current form, the estate tax only affects the wealthiest 2% of all Americans.

Most relatively simple estates (cash, publicly-traded securities, small amounts of other easily-valued assets, and no special deductions or elections, or jointly-held property) with a total value under $1,000,000 do not require the filing of an estate tax return. The amount was $1,500,000 in 2004 and 2005. For 2006 through 2008, the amount is raised to $2,000,000.

To maximize your estate tax planning opportunities, call Mitchell A. Port at 310.559.5259.