While it remains unclear exactly what tax changes President Biden’s administration will usher in, a new administration usually means that tax code changes are coming. Two possibilities are that the new administration will propose lowering the estate tax exemption and eliminating the stepped-up basis on death. The first would affect only multi-millionaires, but the second could have an impact on more modest estates and their heirs.
Is Biden Eliminating the Stepped-Up Basis Rule?
According to an article in the New York Times, the current administration may propose to eliminate the basis step-up rule. "Cost basis" is the monetary value of an item for tax purposes. When determining whether a capital gains tax is owed on property, the basis is used to determine whether an asset has increased or decreased in value. For example, if you purchase a stock for $10,000, that is the cost basis. If you later sell it for $50,000, you will have to pay taxes on the $40,000 increase in value.
Under current law, when a property owner dies, the cost basis of the property is "stepped up," known as the stepped-up basis rule. This means the current value of the property becomes the basis. For example, suppose you inherit a house that was purchased years ago for $50,000 and it is now worth $250,000. You will receive a step up from the original cost basis from $50,000 to $250,000. If you sell the property right away, you will not owe any capital gains taxes.
In the past it was difficult to determine the original cost basis of some property, but in the digital age that information is more easily gathered. The change could result in tax increases for some people inheriting property that has risen significantly in value.
Is Biden Lowering the Estate Tax Exemption?
In 2017, Republicans in Congress and President Trump doubled the federal estate tax exemption and indexed it for inflation. For the 2021 tax year, the exemption is $11.7 million for individuals and $23.4 million for couples. As long as your estate is valued at under the exemption amount, it will not pay any federal estate taxes, and the vast majority of estates do not owe any tax. President Biden has expressed an interest in lowering the estate tax exemption. It could be more than halved to $5 million or even reduced to the previous exemption of $3.5 million for individuals.
How Can I Prepare for Potential Changes?
Another question is whether either of these changes will be made retroactively. It is unlikely, but possible, that if Congress changes these rules later in the year, they could be made retroactive to the first of the year.
If you are concerned about these rules changing, a trust may be a good way to protect your estate. Property in a trust passes outside of probate, and there are specific types of trusts that are designed to protect assets against estate taxes and capital gains.
Tax experts agree that while changes to the tax code are likely, they probably won’t happen right away. The coronavirus pandemic and the recession it has triggered mean that Congress has other priorities at the moment.
Estate Planning Attorney in Avon Lake, Ohio
At Joseph L. Motta, estate planning firm in Avon Lake, OH, we specialize in putting our expertise to work to provide you with the best estate planning advice. Go to our Benefits of a Living Trust page for some basic information and call 440-930-2826 to schedule a free consultation .
Estate Planning Guide
Probate. In terms of estate planning, there are two forms of probate to be concerned about: – death probate and living probate. This Estate Planning Guide covers them both, explains the difference and how to avoid expenses and burdens that can be associated with the probate process.
Drafting a Last Will and Testament. Why is relying on a Will alone is not part of a comprehensive estate plan.
Benefits of a Living Trust. What is a revocable living trust and how can it be an efficient tool to avoiding probate at your death, as well as to avoid living probate in the event of your incapacity.