Portability allows a surviving spouse to apply a deceased spouse’s unused federal gift and estate tax exemption amount toward his or her own transfers during life or at death. To secure these benefits, however, the deceased spouse’s executor must have made a portability election on a timely filed estate tax return (Form 706). The return is due nine months after death, with a six-month extension option.
Unfortunately, estates that aren’t otherwise required to file a return (typically because they don’t meet the filing threshold) often miss this deadline. The IRS recently revised its rules for obtaining an extension to elect portability beyond the original nine-months after death (plus six-month extension) timeframe.
In 2017, the IRS issued Revenue Procedure 2017-34, making it easier (and cheaper) for estates to obtain an extension of time to file a portability election. The procedure grants an automatic extension, provided:
- The deceased was a U.S. citizen or resident,
- The executor wasn’t otherwise required to file an estate tax return and didn’t file one by the deadline, and
- The executor files a complete and properly prepared estate tax return within two years of the date of death.
Since the 2017 ruling, the IRS has had to issue numerous private letter rulings granting an extension of time to elect portability in situations where the deceased’s estate wasn’t required to file an estate tax return and the time for obtaining relief under the simplified method (two years of the date of death) had expired. According to the IRS, these requests placed a significant burden on the agency’s resources.
The IRS has now issued Revenue Procedure 2022-32. Under the new procedure, an extension request must be made on or before the fifth anniversary of the deceased’s death (an increase of three years). This method, which doesn’t require a user fee, should be used in lieu of the private letter ruling process. (The fee for requesting a private letter ruling from the IRS can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.)
Don’t miss the revised deadline
If your spouse predeceases you and you’d benefit from portability, be sure that his or her estate files a portability election by the fifth anniversary of the date of death. Contact us with any questions you have regarding portability.