Time is running out! Should You Make Large Gifts in 2012?

Currently, the exemptions for federal gift tax, estate tax, and generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax are at historic highs, and the gift, estate, and GST tax rates are at historic lows. But, in 2013, the exemptions are scheduled to substantially decrease, and the tax rates are scheduled to substantially increase. This raises the question of whether 2012 might be a good time to make large gifts that take advantage of the current exemptions while they are still available.

Looking into the future

When you transfer your property during your lifetime or at your death, your transfers may be subject to federal gift, estate, and GST tax. (Your transfers may also be subject to state taxes.) Currently, there is a basic exclusion amount (sometimes referred to as an exemption) that protects up to $5,120,000 from gift tax and estate tax, a $5,120,000 GST tax exemption, and a top tax rate of 35%. Unless new legislation is enacted, in 2013 the gift tax and estate tax exemption will decrease to $1,000,000, the GST tax exemption will decrease to $1,000,000 (as indexed), and the top tax rate will increase to 55%.

No one knows what the future holds for these taxes, but there is a lot of speculation about what Congress might do. Among the possible scenarios, tax rates could increase and exemptions decrease, tax rates could decrease and exemptions increase, or current tax rates and exemptions could be extended. The question then arises: “Should large gifts be made in 2012 to take advantage of the large $5,120,000 exemption while it is still available?”

To answer that question, you should generally consider the following: the size of your estate and the rate at which it can be expected to grow (or decrease), whether you can afford to make large gifts, what the future of the transfer taxes might be, and whether “claw back” would apply in future years.

Claw back

Claw back refers to a situation where the benefit of certain tax provisions is essentially recaptured at a later time due to changes in tax law. There is some split in opinion as to whether claw back applies to the estate tax. A couple of examples will illustrate the difference.

Example: Assume the gift and estate tax change as currently scheduled in 2013 and claw back applies. Assume you make a taxable gift of $5 million in 2012 that is fully protected by your gift tax exemption and you have a taxable estate of $5 million when you die in 2013. Estate tax, after reduction by the unified credit but not the state death tax credit, is $4,795,000. The result is essentially the same as if you had not made the taxable gift in 2012 and your taxable estate is $10 million in 2013.

Example: Assume the same facts as above, but with no claw back. Estate tax, after reduction by the unified credit but not the state death tax credit, would be $2,750,000. So, the federal estate tax is $2,045,000 lower if there is no claw back.

Guidelines for large gifts in 2012

If you expect that you can keep your estate down to around $1 million ($2 million total for both spouses if you are married) using annual exclusion gifts (generally, up to $13,000 per recipient per year; effectively, $26,000 for gifts by married couples) and qualified transfers exclusion gifts for medical and educational expenses, there may be no advantage to making taxable gifts in 2012. If you have a larger estate, you may wish to consider making taxable gifts sheltered by exemptions in 2012, depending on your evaluation of how the guidelines here apply to your particular circumstances.

If you make taxable gifts sheltered by the gift and estate tax exemption in 2012, and the gift and estate tax rates later increase, the exemptions decrease, and there is no claw back, you may save gift and estate taxes by making the gifts in 2012. Even if there is claw back, your gift and estate taxes will probably be no worse than if you hadn’t made the gifts. And, if the gift and estate tax rates later decrease or stay the same and the exemptions increase or stay the same, your gift and estate taxes will probably be no worse than if you hadn’t made the gifts.

If you make generation-skipping transfers sheltered by the GST tax exemption in 2012, and the GST tax rate later increases and the exemption decreases, you may save GST tax by making the GST in 2012. Even if the GST tax rate later decreases or stays the same and the exemption increases or stays the same, your GST tax will probably be no worse than if you hadn’t made the GST in 2012.

In each of these scenarios, it has been assumed that values do not appreciate. If the property transferred by gift increases in value after the gift, there may also be transfer tax savings from removing the appreciation from the transfer tax system.

You’ll want to consider how these guidelines for large gifts in 2012 might apply to your specific circumstances. An estate planning professional can help you evaluate them.

Other gift considerations

While it might seem obvious, gifts should only be made if you can afford to part with the property.
In general, it is usually preferable to make as many gifts as possible using the annual exclusion and the qualified transfers exclusion for medical and educational expenses before making taxable gifts that use up the gift and estate tax exemption. Annual exclusion and qualified transfer exclusion gifts do not use up the gift and estate tax exemption.
When you make a gift of property, your income tax basis in the property (generally, what you paid for the property, with some up and down adjustments) is generally carried over to the person who receives the gift. When you transfer property at your death, the basis of the property is usually “stepped up” (or “stepped down”) to fair market value at the time of your death.

©2012 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.


Don’t live in denial …Boomer realities!

Baby Boomers Approach Age 65 — Glumly

Survey Findings about America’s Largest Generation

By D’Vera Cohn and Paul Taylor, Pew Research Center
December 20, 2010


The iconic image of the Baby Boom generation is a 1960s-era snapshot of an exuberant, long-haired, rebellious young adult. That portrait wasn’t entirely accurate even then, but it’s hopelessly out of date now. This famously huge cohort of Americans finds itself in a funk as it approaches old age.

On Jan. 1, 2011, the oldest Baby Boomers will turn 65. Every day for the next 19 years, about 10,000 more will cross that threshold. By 2030, when all Baby Boomers will have turned 65, fully 18% of the nation’s population will be at least that age, according to Pew Research Center population projections. Today, just 13% of Americans are ages 65 and older.

Perched on the front stoop of old age, Baby Boomers are more downbeat than other age groups about the trajectory of their own lives and about the direction of the nation as a whole.

Some of this pessimism is related to life cycle — for most people, middle age is the most demanding and stressful time of life.1 Some of the gloominess, however, appears to be particular to Boomers, who bounded onto the national stage in the 1960s with high hopes for remaking society, but who’ve spent most of their adulthood trailing other age cohorts in overall life satisfaction.

At the moment, the Baby Boomers are pretty glum. Fully 80% say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today, compared with 60% of those ages 18 to 29 (Millennials), 69% of those ages 30 to 45 (Generation Xers) and 76% of those ages 65 and older (the Silent and Greatest Generations), according to a Pew Research Center survey taken earlier this month.

Boomers are also more downbeat than other adults about the long-term trajectory of their lives — and their children’s. Some 21% say their own standard of living is lower than their parents’ was at the age they are now; among all non-Boomer adults, just 14% feel this way, according to a May 2010 Pew Research survey. The same survey found that 34% of Boomers believe their own children will not enjoy as good a standard of living as they themselves have now; by contrast, just 21% of non-Boomers say the same.2

The 79-million-member Baby Boomer generation accounts for 26% of the total U.S. population. By force of numbers alone, they almost certainly will redefine old age in America, just as they’ve made their mark on teen culture, young adult life and middle age.

But don’t tell Boomers that old age starts at age 65. The typical Boomer believes that old age doesn’t begin until age 72, according to a 2009 Pew Research survey. About half of all American adults say they feel younger than their actual age, but fully 61% of Boomers say this. In fact, the typical Boomer feels nine years younger than his or her chronological age.3

On a range of social issues, Baby Boomers are more accepting of changes in American culture and mores than are adults ages 65 and older, though generally less tolerant than the young. On matters related to personal finances, economic security and retirement expectations, they feel more damaged by the Great Recession than do older adults.

Boomers are latecomers to the digital revolution, but are beginning to close their gadget and social media gap with younger generations. For example, among younger Boomers (ages 46-55), fully half now use social networks, compared with 20% in 2008. That rate of growth is more rapid than for younger generations. Also, more than half (55%) of older Boomers (ages 56-64) now watch online video, compared with 30% in 2008.

On the political front, Boomers — like the nation as a whole — have done some partisan switching in recent years. They narrowly favored Barack Obama for president in 2008 (by 50%-49%), then supported Republican congressional candidates by 53%-45% in the 2010 midterm elections, according to election day exit polls. In their core political attitudes about the role of government, they’re more conservative than younger adults and more liberal than older adults, according to acomprehensive 2010 Pew Research report on long-term trends in political values by generation.

In 1970, when the oldest of the Baby Boomers were in their early 20s, the total publicly held national debt was about $283 billion, or about 28% of Gross Domestic Product. Now, as the oldest Boomers approach age 65, the federal debt is an estimated $9 trillion or 62% of GDP — creating IOUs that members of younger generations may be paying down for decades.4

However, a new Pew Research survey finds little appetite among Boomers for deficit reduction proposals that would take a bite out of their own pocketbooks. For example, 68% of Boomers (compared with 56% of all adults) oppose eliminating the tax deduction for interest paid on home mortgages; 80% (compared with 72% of all adults) oppose taxing employer-provided health insurance benefits; and 63% (compared with 58% of all adults) oppose raising the age for qualifying for full Social Security benefits.5 

The Pew Research Center has a deep archive of work that analyzes the demographics, economics, religious beliefs and practices and social and political values of the Baby Boomer generation, and makes comparisons with younger and older U.S. age groups. Our survey work includes questions about family life, personal finances, technology use, aging and a range of other topics.

Views on Social Change

When asked about the array of changes transforming American family life, the Boomers’ views align more closely with younger generations than older ones. For example, Boomers, like younger adults, are far more likely to say the main purpose of marriage is mutual happiness and fulfillment rather than child-raising (70% of Baby Boomers and Millennial young adults say so, compared with 50% of adults ages 65 and older).

When asked whether children face “a lot more challenges” growing up with divorced parents, racially mixed parents or unmarried parents, Baby Boomers and younger adults are less likely to say yes than are adults ages 65 and older.

However, despite the reputation they gained as young adults for favoring alternative lifestyles, Baby Boomers today are less accepting than younger Americans of same-sex couples raising children, unmarried couples living together and other non-traditional arrangements — though they are more tolerant of them than are adults ages 65 and older.

When it comes to divorce, the Baby Boomers are less conservative than younger generations: 66% say divorce is preferable to staying in an unhappy marriage, compared with 54% of younger adults who say so.

Despite differences among generations on these and other matters, a 43%-plurality of Baby Boomers say there is less generational conflict now than in the 1960s and 1970s, when they were coming of age.

Personal Finances and Economic Views

Economically, Boomers are the most likely among all age groups to say they lost money on investments since the Great Recession began. Baby Boomers also are the most likely (57%) to say their household finances have worsened. And a higher share of Boomers than older Americans (but not younger ones) say they have cut spending in the past year.

Among those Baby Boomers ages 50 to 61 who are approaching the end of their working years, six-in-ten say they may have to postpone retirement. According to employment statistics, theolder workforce is growing more rapidly than the younger workforce.

Technology and News

In their use of technology, the youngest Baby Boomers (ages 45-55) are nearly as likely to be online (and to have a home broadband connection) as younger adults, and the oldest Boomers (ages 56-64) are notably more likely to be online than adults ages 65 and older.

Nearly two-thirds of Boomers say they follow the news most or all of the time, a higher share than among younger adults.


By standard measures such as the share who pray daily or frequency of attending religious services, Baby Boomers are less religious than adults ages 65 and older but more religious than adults in younger generations.

Among Baby Boomers, 43% say they are a “strong” member of their religion, a higher share than among younger adults and a lower share than among older ones. Four-in-ten say they attend religious services at least once a week. Conversely, 13% say they have no religious affiliation, less than younger adults but more than older adults.

Baby Boomers: Explore Pew Research Surveys and Reports

Below are hyperlinks to Pew Research Center publications from recent years that include data specifically about Baby Boomers. In some cases, they include data on adults ages 50 to 64, a range that includes most but not all Baby Boomers. In other cases, the research breaks the Baby Boomer generation into younger and older age groups.

Social Behaviors and Values

Economy and Personal Finances


  • Millennials: Comparison of attitudes by generation on a wide variety of topics, including personal values, technology use, media consumption, everyday life activities, religion, social and political values. A related interactive graphic compares the demographics of today’s Millennials (ages 18-28) with Boomers and two older generations when they were the same ages the Millennials are now.
  • Blacks Upbeat about Black Progress, Prospects: Views of black Americans (by age group) on satisfaction, racial progress and values. Views on intermarriage, race discrimination and trust in police by race/Hispanic groups and age.
  • Who Moves? Who Stays Put? Where’s Home?: Ever-moved or always lived in hometown, years since last move, plans to move, where is your true home, contact with home town, why did you move to your current community or why do you stay in your home town.
  • Men or Women: Who’s the Better Leader?: An exploration of public attitudes about gender and leadership; comparisons of ratings of genders on qualities such as honesty and hard work; reasons for scarcity of top female leaders, views on discrimination, equal rights and which gender has the better life.
  • Baby Boomers: The Gloomiest Generation: Views on quality of life, standard of living, getting ahead, optimism about the future, including long-term trends and comparisons of older and younger boomers.

The authors thank our Pew Research Center colleagues Daniel Dockterman, Carroll Doherty, Danielle Gewurz, Scott Keeter, Andrew Kohut, Lee Rainie and Wendy Wang for their assistance.

1. Stone, Arthur A. et al, “A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States,” PNAS, June 1, 2010, Vol. 107, No. 22.
2. In their assessment of their standard of living versus that of their parents, Boomers are more downbeat than adults both older and younger. In their assessment of their children’s future standard of living, they are more downbeat than younger adults and equally as downbeat as older adults.
3. In some of the figures cited in this report (including this one), survey findings for Baby Boomers reflect findings for adults ages 50 to 64, a group that includes most but not all Baby Boomers.
4. If one uses a broader measure that includes debt the government owes to itself (mainly to the Social Security trust fund), the total national debt is now nearly $14 trillion, or more than 90% of GDP.
5. Results in this paragraph are from an unpublished analysis.