A sale to an intentionally defective grantor trust is a very effective and flexible estate-tax planning device. Moreover, if the sale is reported on one of the more than 99% of gift tax returns that are NOT audited by the IRS and the transferor dies more than three years after the gift tax return is filed, the IRS will generally be precluded from raising valuation or other issues related to the sale on an audit of the transferor’s estate tax return. (In 2005, approximately 0.8% of gift tax returns filed with the IRS were audited. Approximately 8% of estate tax returns were audited. See Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Trends in Compliance Activities Through Fiscal Year 2005, Figures 45 and 46.)
In the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog Prof. Beyer posted on a report in the October 2006 RPPT eReport by Amy E. Heller (Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP) on the new Form 706. Bottom line, all the arguments in favor of reporting grantor-trust sales on a gift tax return are even more compelling in light of new line 12(e) of part 4 of the new Form 706. Although Ms. Heller’s report was published before the new 706 was adopted (see here for the new Form 706 as adopted), her comments remain relevant because new Line 12(e) of part 4 was in fact incorporated into the final form:
[L]ine 12(e) of part 4 of the draft form asks an executor whether a decedent at any time during his or her lifetime transferred or sold an interest in a partnership, a limited liability company or a closely-held corporation to a trust that was in existence at the decedent’s death and that was (1) created by the decedent during his or her lifetime or (2) created by someone other than the decedent under which the decedent possessed any power, beneficial interest or trusteeship. If the answer to this question is yes, the executor is required to provide the EIN of the entity in which the interest was transferred.
As a result of new line 12(e), certain gratuitous transfers to trusts that are reportable on a gift tax return will need to be reported for a second time on the transferor’s estate tax return. More significantly, certain sales to trusts for which no gift tax return was filed will need to be disclosed on the seller’s estate tax return. For example, an individual’s sale of a partnership interest to his or her grantor trust for fair market value will need to be reported on the individual’s estate tax return, regardless of whether the sale was required to be reported on a gift tax return. ***
[Because new line 12(e) was in fact incorporated into the new Form 706], practitioners who do not currently advise clients to report sales of interests in partnerships, LLCs or closely-held corporations to grantor trusts on gift tax returns may wish to consider doing so. Reporting these sales will help to close the statute of limitations on IRS challenges more quickly and may even reduce the risk of such challenges. If a sale is reported on one of the more than 99 percent of gift tax returns that are not audited and the transferor dies more than three years after the gift tax return is filed, the IRS will generally be precluded from raising valuation or other issues related to the sale on an audit of the transferor’s estate tax return. Furthermore, in the event that the IRS does successfully challenge a sale disclosed on a gift tax return, it may be possible to make adjustments to a client’s estate plan that would not be possible if the challenge arose after his or her death.