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The amount you can gift to any one person without filing a gift tax form is increasing to $16,000 in 2022, the first increase since 2018. The federal estate tax exclusion is also climbing to more than $12 million per individual.

The IRS’s announcement that the annual gift exclusion will rise for calendar year 2022 means that any person who gives away $16,000 or less to any one individual (anyone other than their spouse) does not have to report the gift or gifts to the IRS. Any person who gives away more than $16,000 to any one person is required to file Form 709, the gift tax return.

The basic federal estate tax exclusion amount for the estates of decedents dying during calendar year 2022 will be $12,060,000 for individuals and $24,120,000 for couples, up from $11.7 million and $23.4 million for calendar year 2021. The increase in the estate tax exclusion means that the lifetime tax exclusion for gifts should also rise to $12,060,000, as should the generation-skipping transfer tax exemption.

This $12,060,000 million lifetime gift tax exclusion means that even if you are required to file Form 709 because you gave away more than $16,000 to any one person during the year, you will owe taxes only if you have given away more than a total of $12,060,000 million in the past. As a result, under current rules the filing of Form 709 is irrelevant for most people because the vast majority do not have $12,060,000 million to give away.  Still, Congress could change the exclusion limit, and the lifetime exclusion is slated to drop in half in 2026, causing some additional estates to be taxable.  To stay within the IRS’s rules without the bother of filing a gift tax return or the (small) risk of a much lower threshold, consider gifting up to the $16,000 limit to multiple family members or other individuals.

For details from the IRS on many of these and other inflation adjustments to tax benefits, go to: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rp-21-45.pdf