Still looking for a last-minute gift? Think cash!
Some people shy away from giving money because they think it’s tacky. Others are leery because of possible tax complications.
You’ll have to consult with Miss Manners about the propriety of gifting cash. But I can help allay some of your financial gift giving tax concerns.
People don’t understand monetary gifts, says Dave Du Val, vice president of taxpayer advocacy at Taxaudit.com, largely because in the tax world it’s a nebulous term. Adding to the confusion, adds Du Val, is that there are different requirements for different types of gifts.
However, when it comes to plain old dollar bills (or checks), the Internal Revenue Service rules are pretty straightforward.
This Christmas, you can give up to $14,000 to anyone and neither you nor your gift recipient will face any tax consequences. That amount is adjusted annually for inflation. For 2015 it stays at $14,000.
When you keep your gifts below that amount, you don’t have to report the gift to the Internal Revenue Service and the person who received the money doesn’t have to report it as income.
Breaking the $14,000 gift tax barrier
But what if you want to be even more generous? There are ways to get around the annual gift exclusions amount.
You can give your spouse any amount you wish without worrying about any gift tax as long as your husband or wife is a U.S. citizen.
Your spouse also can help you double the annual exclusion amount, says Du Val. The giving limit applies individually, so a married couple gets a double financial gift option.
You can give your daughter $14,000 and your spouse can give her another $14,000. She banks $28,000 but because the total came from each parent individually, there are no tax issues for generous moms and dads.
Here’s some more good news, especially for potential financial gift recipients. The tax-free giving isn’t limited to family. You can give up to $14,000 to anyone; a friend, a co-worker, any person you wish.
And in a couple of cases, you can exceed the annual gift exclusion limit entirely. This is the case, says Du Val, when your gift covers qualified educational or medical expenses. Just be sure, he notes, to pay the college or hospital directly.
Right about now, you might be wondering why you should think about financial gifts and taxes since you are far from ultra-rich.
That’s OK. Remember that $14,000 is the most you can give without worrying about taxes. But you don’t have to max out the gift. If you want to give $5,000 or $3,000 or $1,000, that’s fine.
Those relatively smaller amounts are still covered under the tax-free giving rules. At holiday time, that makes Uncle Sam a close cousin of good old Santa Claus.
More tax info from Bankrate
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Veteran contributing editor Kay Bell is the author of the book “The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes” and co-author of the e-book “Future Millionaires’ Guidebook.”