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Tax Planning for 2024

December 26, 2023

As 2023 draws to a close and the New Year dawns, we need to think of…tax planning for 2024 and beyond! Some years Congress tweaks the laws more than other years. While 2023 held plenty of surprises, it was a relatively quiet year for legislative changes impacting tax planning. Still, even in a quiet year, some things change due to inflation adjustments, etc.

Estate Tax Planning

Applicable Exclusion rises from $12.92 million in 2023 to $13.61 million in 2024.

GST Exemption rises from $12.92 million in 2023 to $13.61 million in 2024.

Annual Exclusion for present interest gifts rises to $18,000 in 2024.

Annual Exclusion for gifts to a Noncitizen Spouse rises to $185,000 in 2024.

In a couple years, at the end of 2025, the Applicable Exclusion and the GST Exemption will revert to one-half of their current levels, in other words to $5 million, adjusted for inflation from the 2011 base year. This isn’t relevant for most Americans. However, if you have well over those amounts, you may want to consider removing those amounts from your estate while you still have the temporarily-doubled Exclusion and Exemption to cover the transfers. The law will change on January 1, 2026, unless Congress changes things dramatically before then, which appears unlikely at least for the next year given the closely divided Congress and Senate.

Income Tax Planning

Standard deduction amount:

Married, filing jointly, increases from $27,700 in 2023 to $29,200 in 2024.

Single, increases from $13,850 in 2023 to $14,600 in 2024.

Head of household, increases from $20,800 in 2023 to $21,900 in 2024.

State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction cap remains at $10,000 in 2024.

The income tax brackets creep slightly higher, as well.

As you plan for 2024, remember to keep your receipts for expenses and charitable contributions. With the high standard deduction amount and the cap on State and Local Tax deductions remaining at $10,000, fewer taxpayers are itemizing. In fact, the percentage of taxpayers itemizing is less than half what it was before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. According to the Tax Foundation, less than 14% of taxpayers itemize each year after the TCJA. Before then, more than twice that percentage, over 31% of taxpayers, itemized. If you give to charity, you may want to group your charitable contributions into one year, itemize them in that one year, and take the standard deduction in other years. You can do this by consolidating giving to a Donor Advised Fund (“DAF”) in one year. Then you can make grant recommendations from your DAF each year. This way, your tax planning won’t impact your favorite charities.

Let’s look at an example. John and Mary have high incomes and make $17,700 of charitable contributions to their church, alma mater, or other charities each year. They have state and local tax deductions above the $10,000 limit. They have a total of $27,700 of deductions and they’d be better off taking the standard deduction ($27,700 in 2023). Rather than giving $17,700 for each of three years to charity, they could give 3 x $17,700 ($53,100) in one year and they’d get a much better tax result. If they gave $53,100 in year 1 to a DAF, combined with their SALT deduction of $10,000, they’d have $63,100 of deductions instead of the standard deduction of $27,700. In years 2 and 3, they’d just have the SALT deduction of $10,000 and no charitable deduction but could still take the standard deduction ($29,200 in 2024). The charities would get their funds each year just as usual when John and Mary make the grant recommendations from their DAF. John and Mary would get a much better tax result. In year 1, they’d have $63,100 of deductions instead of $27,700, an increase of $35,400. Their deductions in years 2 and 3 would not change, because either way they’d be taking the standard deduction in those years. Depending upon John and Mary’s income tax bracket, this increased deduction could save them over $12,000 in federal income taxes alone.

A little planning can produce a much better tax result. Have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2024!