How has tax reform affected the generation-skipping transfer tax?
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law in December 2017, doubled the federal generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax exemption to $11.18 million in 2018 (adjusted for inflation in later years). After 2025, the exemption is scheduled to revert to its pre-2018 level and be cut approximately in half. Otherwise, the federal GST tax remains the same.
The federal GST tax generally applies if you transfer property to a skip person. A skip person is someone who is two or more generations younger than you (for example, a grandchild). The GST tax may apply in addition to any gift or estate tax. Similar to the gift tax provisions, annual exclusions (up to $15,000 per recipient in 2018) and exclusions for qualifying educational and medical expenses are available for GST tax. You can protect up to $11.18 million (in 2018) with the GST tax exemption. Transfers in excess of the GST tax exemption are generally taxed at 40%.
A GST generally occurs on a transfer that is subject to federal gift or estate tax and made to a skip person, or a transfer to a trust if all the beneficiaries with an interest in the trust are skip persons. A GST may also occur on certain distributions from trusts to skip persons. Additionally, a GST may occur when an interest in a trust terminates, and skip persons then hold all interests in the trust.
Unlike with the gift and estate tax applicable exclusion amount, the GST tax exemption is not portable between spouses. The estate of a deceased spouse cannot transfer any unused GST tax exemption to the surviving spouse.
Note: An early version of the legislation proposed approximately doubling the gift and estate tax basic exclusion amount and the GST tax exemption for 2018 to 2024. After 2024, the estate tax and the GST tax would have been repealed. The gift tax would not have been repealed, although the top gift tax rate would have been reduced from 40% to 35% after 2024. However, the only provision that made it into the final legislation was the doubling of the gift and estate tax basic exclusion amount and the GST tax exemption for 2018 to 2025.