Gifting has been discussed at Isaac Brock from time to time, especially related to the Exit Tax. For any of you that have gifted, the above Forbes article may be your reminder that the process is to be reported on Form 709.
But now the lawyers have one more reason to be busy: You must report 2012 gifts on Form 709 even if you don’t owe tax. Among other things, that’s so the IRS will know how much of the $5.12 million ($5.25 million for 2013) tax-free amount you have used so far.
Do-it-yourself types can download the form as a fillable PDF plus the instructions that go with it from the IRS web site
For the 2011 tax year, there were 219,544 gift tax returns filed, according to IRS statistics which download here as a PDF. However, very few of them — about 3,000 – involved gifts of $1 million or more. Most related instead to using what’s called the annual exclusion. This is the amount that you are allowed to give, in cash, property or gifts, to as many people as you want each year without dipping into your lifetime exemption amount. Last year the annual exclusion was $13,000. The annual exclusion for 2013 is $14,000. (See “IRS Raises Yearly Limit For Tax-Free Gifts.”)
There are various reasons why you might need to report these relatively small (in the scheme of things) gifts. To come within the annual exclusion, a gift must be a present interest, meaning that the recipient can use the gift immediately. That’s certainly true with cash, but can be a different story with gifts to trusts, in which beneficiaries don’t have any rights until later. Any time you make a gift that isn’t a present interest, it must be reported, no matter how small the amount.