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Wednesday April 21, 2021

Case of the Week

Dying to Deduct, Part 2

Case:

Abigail Green was a wonderful and spirited 80-year-old woman. Even in her advanced age, she worked in her garden, handled all her finances and played golf each weekend. In addition to her busy schedule, she also made time to help at a local homeless shelter. She believed whenever you can lend assistance to your fellow neighbor it is your responsibility to do so. Because of this belief, she gave her time, love and money to the local homeless shelter. Abigail's normal practice was to give $5,000 each year to the homeless shelter. However, she wanted to make a more significant gift this year.

In January of this year, she decided to establish a $100,000 charitable gift annuity for herself and her sister. The payments would go to Abigail for life, then to her sister for life. Abigail liked the high fixed payments, large tax deduction and simplicity of the arrangement. Because Abigail funded the CGA with cash, a large portion of each payment was tax-free. But of course, what she loved most was the eventual gift to the shelter.

Sadly, Abigail suffered a heart attack a few weeks later and died soon after. It was a terrible loss to the community. Now several months have passed and Abigail's family and CPA are winding up Abigail's financial affairs. Her CPA knew he could claim Abigail's charitable tax deduction on her final income tax return. He also knew if a person who funds a gift annuity dies prematurely, that person's estate may claim an additional tax deduction for any unrecovered investment (See "Dying to Deduct, Part 1"). However, in this case, Abigail's sister remains a beneficiary on the gift annuity contract. Thus, the CPA wonders how this affects the unrecovered investment issue.

Question:

Since Abigail died prematurely, does her estate get another tax deduction? Does the fact that this is a two-life gift annuity affect the outcome?

Solution:

The income from Abigail's gift annuity, as mentioned above, was partially tax-free. This tax-free component is essentially a return of principal, and it lasts for the lifetime of both Abigail and her sister.

Normally, in a single life annuity, the premature death of an annuitant would trigger an additional income tax deduction on the decedent's final income tax return. See Sec. 72(b)(4). However, in this case, the annuity continues for the life of Abigail's sister. Furthermore, the tax-free payments continue for the life of her sister. Abigail's sister, in essence, will step into Abigail's "shoes" and reap the benefits of tax-free payments.

Consequently, there is no unrecovered investment in the annuity contract at the time of Abigail's death because Abigail's sister is still "recovering" it. As a result, Abigail's estate is not entitled to an additional income tax deduction on her final income tax return.

Editor's Note: If an additional income tax deduction were applicable, it would not be a charitable income tax deduction, but rather a net operating loss deduction. This deduction can be claimed on Schedule A of Form 1040.

Published March 5, 2021

Previous Articles

Dying to Deduct, Part 1

Living on the Edge, Part 6

Living on the Edge, Part 5

Living on the Edge, Part 4

Living on the Edge, Part 3

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