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Are we liable for taxes when paying for our daughter’s wedding?

Image Credits: UnsplashImage Credits: Unsplash
  • The IRS allows an annual exclusion amount of $17,000 per person for 2023, increasing to $18,000 in 2024.
  • Exceeding the annual exclusion reduces your lifetime exclusion amount, which is $12.92 million as of 2023.
  • Strategies to avoid gift tax include gift splitting, direct payments to vendors, and spreading gifts over multiple years.

A wedding is a joyous occasion, and many parents are eager to contribute financially to make their child's big day special. However, it's essential to understand the tax implications of such a generous gift. The IRS has specific rules regarding gift taxes, and knowing these can help you avoid unexpected liabilities.

The federal gift tax applies when you transfer money or property to someone else without receiving something of equal value in return. The tax rates range from 18% to 40%, depending on the size of the gift. However, not all gifts are subject to this tax. The IRS allows an annual exclusion amount, which is the maximum amount you can give to an individual each year without incurring gift tax. For 2023, this amount is $17,000 per person, and it will increase to $18,000 in 2024.

Annual and Lifetime Exclusions

If you give more than the annual exclusion amount, the excess reduces your lifetime exclusion amount, which is the total amount you can give away tax-free over your lifetime. As of 2023, the lifetime exclusion is $12.92 million. For example, if you give your child $30,000 for their wedding, you exceed the annual exclusion by $13,000. This excess amount reduces your lifetime exclusion but does not immediately trigger a gift tax unless you have already exhausted your lifetime limit.

Strategies to Avoid Gift Tax

There are several strategies to avoid or minimize gift tax when paying for a wedding:

Gift Splitting: If you are married, you and your spouse can each give $17,000 to your child, totaling $34,000 without exceeding the annual exclusion. This strategy is known as gift splitting and requires both spouses to consent and file Form 709.

Direct Payments: Another way to avoid gift tax is to pay wedding vendors directly. Payments made directly to service providers for the wedding do not count as gifts to your child and are not subject to gift tax.

Spread Over Multiple Years: You can also spread the gifts over multiple years, giving up to the annual exclusion amount each year to avoid exceeding the limit.

Consulting a Financial Advisor

Given the complexities of gift tax rules, consulting a financial advisor is highly recommended. A financial advisor can help you structure your gifts in a way that minimizes tax liability and aligns with your overall financial plan. As Angie O’Leary, head of Wealth Planning at RBC Wealth Management, suggests, setting aside money in a separate investment account well in advance can help manage the financial impact of wedding expenses.

Paying for your child's wedding is a generous gesture, but it's crucial to understand the tax implications to avoid unexpected liabilities. By utilizing strategies like gift splitting, direct payments, and spreading gifts over multiple years, you can navigate the IRS gift tax rules effectively. Always consult with a financial advisor to ensure your contributions are structured in the most tax-efficient manner.

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