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IRS says millionaires can keep estate tax benefits after 2025

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Taxpayers can benefit from higher thresholds for U.S. estate and gift taxes even if they don’t die until after the tax overhaul expires in 2026, the IRS said.

The 2017 Republican tax law approximately doubled the estate and gift tax exemption. That means individuals this year can pass on, tax-free, $11.4 million from their estate and gifts they gave before their death. Couples can pass on $22.8 million. The higher levels expire in 2026, but individuals who make large gifts while the exemption is higher and die after it goes back down won’t see the estate tax benefit eroded, the IRS said in regulations announced Friday.

“As a result, individuals planning to make large gifts between 2018 and 2025 can do so without concern that they will lose the tax benefit of the higher exclusion level once it decreases after 2025,” the agency said in a press release.

The exemption increase was a priority for Republicans in the 2017 tax overhaul. It cut the number of individuals who would be subject to the 40% estate tax by about two-thirds. The exemption was $5.5 million before the law change.

Democrats, however, are eyeing a reversal of those changes if they sweep the House, Senate and White House in 2020. Almost every Democratic presidential candidate has called for the estate tax to apply to a larger number of wealthy families.

Senator Bernie Sanders has called for the estate tax to kick in on fortunes worth at least $3.5 million, and has proposed rates as high as 77%.

Bloomberg News