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A family gathering outdoors, with a mother and baby sitting together, looking up at string lights above them - Family

Common Family Tax Mistakes

Family bonds are precious, but when finances intertwine, tax complexities can arise. Overlooking these intricacies can lead to unpleasant surprises down the road. Let’s delve into some common family transactions and their tax implications, ensuring your loved ones and finances stay protected.

Renting to Family: Fair Value Matters

Renting a property to a relative seems straightforward, but tax treatment hinges on fair rental value. Charging below market rates triggers a “gift of rent” scenario. The difference between fair rent and actual rent, exceeding the annual gift tax exemption ($17,000 in 2023), could have tax consequences. Remember, fair rental value is based on comparable properties in the area.

Below-Market Loans: Interest Matters Too

Loans between family members with below-market interest rates also raise tax flags. The borrower is treated as paying interest at the applicable federal rate (AFR), impacting their deductions. The lender is considered giving the borrower the “imputed interest,” treated as investment income. For loans under $10,000, exceptions apply, but tread carefully with larger sums.

Gifting vs. Inheriting: Basis Makes a Difference

Gifting assets generally means the recipient inherits the donor’s basis, impacting potential capital gains taxes upon sale. Inheriting assets, however, often leads to a “step-up in basis” to the fair market value at the date of death, potentially reducing capital gains taxes. This makes inheriting generally more tax-advantageous than receiving assets as gifts.

Life Estates: Retaining Rights Impacts Taxes

An elderly parent transferring a home title to a child while retaining lifetime residency rights creates a “life estate.” Upon the parent’s passing, the home’s value is included in their estate, and the child receives the basis as the fair market value at the date of death.

However, if the parent vacates the property after transferring the title, it’s considered a gift, and the child receives the parent’s original basis. This can disadvantage the child in terms of capital gains taxes upon sale.

Joint Ownership: Withholding and Basis Considerations

Adding a child’s name to a jointly owned property triggers gift tax implications and impacts basis calculations. While the parent benefits from home sale exclusion rules if they meet ownership and use requirements, the child might not unless they reside in the property for two of the five years preceding the sale.

Beyond These Examples: Seek Professional Guidance

These are just a few examples of the intricate tax landscape surrounding family transactions. Remember, navigating these complexities alone can be treacherous. Consulting a tax professional before embarking on any significant family financial transaction is paramount. They can help structure the transaction to minimize tax burdens and ensure a smooth, stress-free experience for everyone involved.

JS Morlu LLC is a top-tier accounting firm based in Woodbridge, Virginia, with a team of highly experienced and qualified CPAs and business advisors. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive accounting, tax, and business advisory services to clients throughout the Washington, D.C. Metro Area and the surrounding regions. With over a decade of experience, we have cultivated a deep understanding of our clients’ needs and aspirations. We recognize that our clients seek more than just value-added accounting services; they seek a trusted partner who can guide them towards achieving their business goals and personal financial well-being.
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