Finseca (AALU): The IRS Takes an Unprecedented Position Against Perceived GRAT Valuation Abuse

The Washington Report: – Wealth Transfer Edition

“Abusive taxpayer transactions simply continue to raise the ire of the IRS. Commonly seen as a very conservative planning technique, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) has recently taken extreme positions to challenge the use of grantor retained annuity trusts (“GRATs”).  The IRS in a recent CCA takes the position that by undervaluing the assets transferred to a GRAT, the GRAT annuity interest is not a “qualified interest,” and therefore the entire transfer is a taxable gift. The IRS finds that the transferred interest can be undervalued to such an extent that it ceases to be a qualified interest under IRC § 2702.  While the CCA is not precedent, it is a clear indication of how the IRS may deal with perceived abusive (valuation) transactions. A softer touch could have permitted use of the self-adjustment regulations to correct the transaction. Instead, the IRS uses a hammer to address, in our view, bad taxpayer behavior. To avoid costly disputes with the IRS, when funding a GRAT or any irrevocable trust with hard-to-value assets, obtain a qualified appraisal as of the date of the transfer.

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