On Tuesday, November 8, United States elections for the year 2022 were held. During this important midterm election, more than one-third of the seats in the Senate and all 435 seats in the House of Representative were contested. Now that the results are in, we know that Republicans will control the House and Democrats will retain control of the Senate come January. What does this mean for you?
With a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic-controlled Senate, it seems likely that any legislative action, outside of must-pass legislation such as funding the government, will come to a screeching halt. And negotiations on even the must-pass legislation will likely be factious, with each party seeing it as their only opportunity to pass policy.
GOP power in the House means Republicans will likely bring congressional investigations of certain people, policies, and corporations. For example, congressional hearings for the Justice Department’s handling of the Trump Mar-a-Lago investigations and telecommunications companies that cooperated with the January 6 committee seem likely. Republican members of the House have also signaled support for probes into Hunter Biden, the White House’s handling of the southern border, and President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some far-right members have also said they would try to launch impeachment proceedings against President Biden, although this effort would likely not get far because the Senate, which has sole power to conduct impeachment trials, is controlled by Democrats.
The Republicans’ agenda will likely include putting an end to Build Back Better, and they may also attempt to get spending cuts as concessions from the White House when the time comes to raise the cap on government spending in 2023.
On the other hand, Democrats will focus on what they can do with the Senate’s power: confirming federal judges and executive branch appointments. Since only a simple majority in the Senate is required to confirm judicial nominees for district courts, circuit courts, and even the Supreme Court, a Democratic Senate will be able to confirm more of President Biden’s choices.
The Democrats’ retention of a majority in the Senate also means that they can determine legislative priorities—Senate Democrats can set their own floor agenda and reject bills approved by the Republican-controlled House. They can also ensure that hearings and committee time are not used on investigations of President Biden and other members of his administration.
In reality, at this point all we can do is speculate until the new congressional session begins. We will continue to keep you updated, particularly with regard to how any proposed or new laws might impact your estate planning. In the meantime, do not wait to start or revise your estate plan if changes are needed. Life events such as marriage, divorce, birth, and death have a major impact not only on your life but on your estate plan as well. If you or your loved ones have had any of these changes, it is crucial that you review your estate plan (on your own or with us) to ensure that your wishes are carried out. Remember: estate planning is not a one-and-done event.IRS Extends Late Portability Election
The IRS recently issued a new procedure (Revenue Procedure 2022-32) which extends the time an estate has to elect portability to five years after the decedent’s date of death. Since portability is probably not top of mind for you, let us take a minute to review what portability is and why this news could be very useful information.
What is the portability election?
In its simplest terms, portability is a procedure that allows spouses to combine their estate and gift tax exemptions by allowing a surviving spouse to use their deceased spouse’s unused exclusion (DSUE) amount. The surviving spouse then has their own exemption from estate and gift tax plus the unused exemption of their deceased spouse.
Example: Spouse 1 dies in 2022 when the exemption amount is $12.06 million. Spouse 1 used $2 million of their exemption amount to make gifts during their lifetime, leaving a DSUE amount of $10.06 million. Spouse 2 can elect portability to combine Spouse 1’s $10.06 million unused exemption amount with their own exemption amount.
What was the prior deadline, and why did the IRS issue a new deadline?
Prior to Revenue Procedure 2022-32, for estates not required to file an estate tax return, the deadline to elect portability was two years after the decedent’s death. (For estates required to file an estate tax return, the due date for the return is nine months after the decedent’s death, or if an extension has been obtained, the last day of the extension period, regardless of whether the estate elects portability.) However, the IRS was receiving a significant number of requests for private letter rulings from estates that did not meet the two-year deadline, placing a considerable burden on the IRS’s resources. The IRS observed that many of these requests were from estates where the decedent had died within five years of the request, thus prompting issuance of Revenue Procedure 2022-32, which extends the election period to five years after the decedent’s death.
Why might you be filing late?
Because many couples own property jointly, when the first spouse passes away, the surviving spouse becomes the sole owner of their deceased spouse’s property by operation of law; thus, they often do not consult with any advisors at the first spouse’s death. If the value of the surviving spouse’s money and property is greater than their individual exemption amount, or if the value of their money and property increases after the death of the first spouse, then the surviving spouse’s individual exemption amount alone may not be enough to avoid the payment of estate taxes.
Example: Spouse 1 and Spouse 2 own property worth $10 million. Spouse 1 dies in 2022 when the estate tax exemption amount is $12.06 million. Because everything was owned jointly, all property automatically passes to Spouse 2 as the sole owner. Spouse 2 does not file an estate tax return to elect portability at Spouse 1’s death and does not have to because Spouse 1’s assets were worth less than Spouse 1’s remaining estate tax exemption amount. When Spouse 2 passes away in 2026, the exemption is approximately $6 million, and Spouse 2’s property is now worth $14.06 million, meaning that estate taxes will be owed on the $8.6 million not covered by Spouse 2’s exemption amount. If Spouse 2 had used the extended five-year period for electing portability to claim Spouse 1’s unused $12.06 million exemption amount, the entire estate could have been shielded from estate taxes (($14.06 million – $12.06 million) – $6 million = no estate tax due).
If you need more information about portability and how it might apply to you, please contact us and your tax preparer for help in analyzing your financial and tax situation. We are here to assist you in that analysis and direct you in taking next steps.