3

In 2019 we plan to give $25,000 to our 26 yr old grandchild. All of our ready cash is in joint checking and savings accounts, with both names on the checks. Can we write one $25,000 check as a gift without having to file the gift tax return? If we have to write separate checks, must they be of equal amount. Is there anything relevant in the timing of the gifts if two checks must be written?

  • 1
    @user83617 Please see money.stackexchange.com/help/merging-accounts to get your accounts merged – GS - Apologise to Monica Mar 20 at 15:42
  • Is there something very special to you about that amount in particular? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 20 at 22:05
  • 1
    I don't agree with the decision to close this question as a duplicate and have re-opened it. In fact, the answers to this question are more explanatory and relevant than the answer to the other question whose answer didnt even explore the issue of a brother and sister making gifts from a joint account and hence implicitly gifting one another and not taking into account the gift tax on the implicit transaction. That issue does not arise here because spouses have tenancy by the entirety in a joint account and the unlimited marital exemption covers all bases. – Dilip Sarwate Mar 21 at 18:54
4

The annual gift exclusion amount for 2019 is $15k per individual per year (US).

It might not matter if you give $25k from a joint account but if it does, why tempt fate?

Just send two checks, one from each grandparent.

  • If each check is under the limit, neither timing or amounts matter. – Hart CO Mar 20 at 16:07
  • 1
    See Pub 559, “Gift Splitting.” Does writing two checks from a joint account really avoid the obligation to file the gift tax return? I’m not sure that it does. – Ben Miller - Reinstate Monica Mar 20 at 16:14
  • It seems that If the two spouses don't agree to split the gifts then each persons gifts are separate and no form is needed unless a person gives more than 15K to a person. – mhoran_psprep Mar 21 at 11:33
  • +1 I am pretty sure that gifts from a joint account are considered to be given equally from each account owner. There are different opinions out there, not everyone agrees with me. But it's so easy to write two checks; it's cheap insurance. – stannius Mar 21 at 16:16
2

Gift tax is part of the estate tax, which is outlined in IRS Publication 559. In the Gift Tax section of that publication, there is a description of something called "Gift Splitting":

Gift splitting. If the decedent or his or her spouse made a gift to a third party, the gift can be considered as made one-half by the decedent and one-half by the decedent’s spouse. This is known as gift splitting. Both spouses must agree to split the gift and in the case of a deceased spouse, the personal representative will act on behalf of the decedent. If there is consent to split the gift, both spouses can apply the annual exclusion to one-half of the gift. For gifts made in 2018, gift splitting allows married couples to give up to $30,000 to a person without making a taxable gift. If a gift is split, both spouses must file a gift tax return to show an agreement to use gift splitting. Form 709 must be filed even if half of the split gift is less than the annual exclusion.

Example. Harold and his wife, Helen, agreed to split the gifts that they made during 2018. Harold gave his nephew, George, $21,000, and Helen gave her niece, Gina, $18,000. Although each gift is more than the annual exclusion ($15,000), by gift splitting they made these gifts without making a taxable gift. Harold’s gift to George is treated as one-half ($10,500) from Harold and one-half ($10,500) from Helen. Helen’s gift to Gina is also treated as one-half ($9,000) from Helen and one-half ($9,000) from Harold. In each case, because one-half of the split gift isn't more than the annual exclusion, it isn't a taxable gift. However, each of them must file a gift tax return.

The money in your joint account belongs to both of you. You, as a couple, can give your grandchild up to $30,000 this year and stay under the annual exclusion, paying no gift tax and not assessing anything against your lifetime Applicable Credit Amount. However, gifts over $15,000 that are split in this manner need to be reported on a gift tax return. You and your spouse will both need to file a Form 709.

I don't see anything that indicates that writing separate checks would get you out of the filing requirement.

Additional reading:

  • I am not an accountant but I believe gift splitting only applies if e.g. Harold, individually, gives George a gift over the exclusion amount, but the couple wants to count it as from both of them to stay under the exclusion. – stannius Mar 21 at 15:41
1

A gift from a joint account is considered to be equally given from all account owners.

From IRS's own page Frequently Asked Questions on Gift Taxes

What if my spouse and I want to give away property that we own together?

You are each entitled to the annual exclusion amount on the gift. Together, you can give $22,000 to each donee (2002-2005) or $24,000 (2006-2008), $26,000 (2009-2012) and $28,000 on or after January 1, 2013 (including 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017). In 2018 and 2019, the total for you and your spouse is $30,000.

I am not an accountant, but I interpret this to mean that a gift of jointly owned property, including from a joint account, is considered to be given 50% from each of the owners (assuming two owners). Therefore there is no need to file any gift tax form, because neither person has exceeded their annual exclusion. Not everyone agrees with this interpretation.

  • Agreed (+1), but this gift still apparently needs to be declared on a gift tax return, even though it is not taxable. The name on the signature line of the check does not change the fact that the gift is from both of you. – Ben Miller - Reinstate Monica Mar 21 at 16:02
  • @BenMiller That is not my interpretation. I interpret it to mean: a gift of jointly owned property, including from a joint account, is considered to be given 50% from each of the owners (assuming two owners). In that case there is no need to file any gift tax form, because neither has exceeded their exclusion. – stannius Mar 21 at 16:09
  • I'm not an accountant, either. :) You might be right, but I haven't been able to find anything definitive either way. – Ben Miller - Reinstate Monica Mar 21 at 16:15
  • @BenMiller I've actually found some conflicting info, people definitively stating it both ways. – stannius Mar 21 at 16:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.