Gift Splitting

June 25, 2004

It is a common practice for financial advisors, accountants and attorneys to recommend that their clients gift the “annual exemption” each year as part of the clients’ estate, gift and income tax planning. The following is a summary of the rules regarding “gift-splitting” which is an important part of utilizing the annual exemptions.

Generally, each individual is permitted to gift $10,000.00 to any number of donees during a tax year without the requirement of filing a gift tax return and, at the same time, without utilizing the applicable exclusion amount. If a gift from a married individual exceeds $10,000.00 to any one donee, you may consider gift-splitting with their spouse. That is, if the nondonor spouse agrees, the gift can be deemed to have been made from both husband and wife; thereby utilizing the $10,000.00 exemption per spouse, for a combined $20,000.00 gift per donee.

The following are the requirements for gift splitting: Gift-splitting can only be elected between spouses. Gift-splitting is not permitted if the couple is divorced and either of them remarries during the year; the spouses must both be U.S. citizens or residents; and the nondonor spouse must consent to the gift-splitting.

A split gift is recorded on the donor’s gift tax return. If only one of the spouses makes gifts during the calendar year, then the nondonor spouse simply consents by signing the donor spouse’s gift tax return and will not need to file their own gift tax return (unless the total gifts to the donee exceeds $20,000.00 for the year or any gift constitutes a future interest).

Note that a nondonor spouse may revoke the splitting of gifts on or before the April 15th following the year of the gift. In addition, the gift-splitting election applies to all of the gifts made during the year. As a result, the nondonor spouse cannot elect to split some gifts but not other gifts.

As the end of the year approaches, it is important to advise clients on the basic rules of gift-splitting and the gift tax return requirements so that the gift tax exemptions are not jeopardized.