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The Generation Skipping Transfer Tax
A generation-skipping transfer tax generally is imposed (in addition to the gift tax or the estate tax) on transfers, either directly or in trust or similar arrangement, to a “skip person” (i.e., a beneficiary in a generation more than one generation below that of the transferor). Transfers subject to the generation-skipping transfer tax include direct skips, taxable terminations, and taxable distributions.
Exemption and Tax Rate
An exemption generally equal to the estate tax exemption amount is provided for each person making generation-skipping transfers. The exemption may be allocated by a transferor (or his or her executor) to transferred property, and in some cases is automatically allocated. The allocation of generation-skipping transfer tax exemption effectively reduces the tax rate (potentially to zero) on a generation-skipping transfer.
The tax rate on generation-skipping transfers is a flat rate of tax equal to the maximum estate and gift tax rate (40 percent) multiplied by the “inclusion ratio.” The inclusion ratio with respect to any property transferred indicates the amount of “generation-skipping transfer tax exemption” allocated to a trust (or to property transferred in a direct skip) relative to the total value of property transferred. If, for example, a taxpayer transfers $5 million in property to a trust and allocates $5 million of exemption to the transfer, the inclusion ratio is zero, and the applicable tax rate on any subsequent generation-skipping transfers from the trust is zero percent (40 percent multiplied by the inclusion ratio of zero). If the taxpayer allocates no exemption to the transfer, the inclusion ratio is one, and the applicable tax rate on any subsequent generation-skipping transfers from the trust is 40 percent (40 percent multiplied by the inclusion ratio of one).
Generation-skipping transfer tax generally is imposed at the time of a generation- skipping transfer - a direct skip, a taxable termination, or a taxable distribution.
A direct skip is any transfer subject to estate or gift tax of an interest in property to a skip person. A skip person may be a natural person or certain trusts. All persons assigned to the second or more remote generation below the transferor are skip persons (e.g., grandchildren and great-grandchildren). Trusts are skip persons if (1) all interests in the trust are held by skip persons, or (2) no person holds an interest in the trust and at no time after the transfer may a distribution (including distributions and terminations) be made to a non-skip person.
A taxable termination is a termination (by death, lapse of time, release of power, or otherwise) of an interest in property held in trust unless, immediately after such termination, a non-skip person has an interest in the property, or unless at no time after the termination may a distribution (including a distribution upon termination) be made from the trust to a skip person.
A taxable distribution is a distribution from a trust to a skip person (other than a taxable termination or direct skip). If a transferor allocates generation-skipping transfer tax exemption to a trust prior to the taxable distribution, generation-skipping transfer tax may be avoided.