How does the gift tax work when using gift funds to buy a home?
$17,000 ANNUAL EXCLUSION
The federal government gives each of us an allowance to gift anybody $17,000 per year without incurring any gift tax. This $17,000/year replenishes every year, and it’s $17,000 per person. So, theoretically, I could gift every person that I know $17,000 today, and then another $17,000 next year and the year after, and there would be NO gift tax. This $17,000 limit is up from $16,000 in 2022.
$12,920,000 LIFETIME EXCLUSION
What most people don’t realize, is that there’s a second allowance of $12.92mm! This is up from $12.06mm in 2022. In other words, let’s say that I want to give you $117,000. That’s $100,000 more than what I can give you out of my $17,000 annual bucket. That’s not a problem at all because I also have the $12,920,000 bucket. The $12.92mm bucket is called my “Lifetime Exclusion.” If I use any of it during my lifetime, I simply reduce my estate tax exclusion by that amount.
So in our example, if I gift you $117,000, I would take $17,000 out of my annual bucket and $100,000 out of my lifetime bucket. My annual bucket replenishes each year. But my lifetime bucket does NOT replenish. In fact, I must reduce my lifetime bucket by $100,000, so now my lifetime exclusion is “only” $12.82mm instead of $12.92mm.
Now, if my estate is less than $12.92mm, this would not be a problem at all, because my heirs would have no estate tax anyhow. However, if my estate is more than $12.92mm then my heirs would have to pay estate taxes on anything inherited above $12.92mm. In other words, the lifetime exclusion bucket is used for both gift and estate tax purposes. So every time I use it to not pay gift taxes, I’m also reducing my estate tax exclusion… that’s how and why the gift tax and the estate tax are related to one another.
That's the lifetime gift tax exclusion in 2023.
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