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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Christmas in January

In late November of last year, my sister and I entertained the idea of giving our nieces and nephews stock as Christmas gifts.  That conversation sparked a post from me about giving smarter at Christmas.  My intent was to chronicle the process as it unfolded.  But a second conversation led us to the realization that, were we to proceed, certain family dynamics might lead to us unintentionally confirming the notion that no good deed goes unpunished.  So we abandoned the plan and I inadvertently left some readers hanging in the process.  This post, sans the nieces, nephews, and potential drama (good and bad), is intended to finish what was started.

In order to give stock to someone else, the giver and the receiver must both have brokerage accounts of some type.  If you’ll recall in the other post, I described the account types that could be used to accomplish the task:

Guardian accounts - Adult owned and controlled you would own

Custodial accounts - (UGMA or UTMA depending on your state) – Minor owned, adult controlled

Minor IRA account – Minor owned, adult controlled and only available to minors who are actually earning income

I’m going to go the custodial route for this post and assume that UGMA is the appropriate choice based on my state of residence. 

The first thing I’d need to do, assuming I don’t have a brokerage account, would be to open one.  There are many options to choose from here, so the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle is going to be my guide.  Ideally, I’d like to open the custodial account for my child with the same financial institution where I have my checking and savings account to make it easier to move funds from one account to another.  It should be noted that it’s not necessary to do this since ACH (automated clearing house) transfers allow for relatively seamless inter-institutional movement of funds. Almost any of the big banks will accommodate this all-in-one approach.  Unlike the big banks though, most of the online brokers (like E-trade, Schwab, Fidelity, etc.) will handle the custodial account but not the checking account.  But again, the ACH process fills the gap nicely there should you choose that route. 

Now, since I have a Wells Fargo checking account and they also handle all the account types I need to accomplish my goal, I’ll open and fund a Wells Trade (brokerage) account with them.  I’ll also open a UGMA account in the name of my child with me as the custodian.  Please note there are no minimum amounts required to establish the UGMA account.  Once the account is established, any and all individuals desirous of doing so can contribute up to the maximum, which is currently $14,000 per individual per year, without any tax penalty.  The money in that account can now be used to purchase stocks (or other securities) with a few key strokes.

In addition to that, I’ll open a joint checking account for me and my child.  With all that done, I’ll buy some stock now for my brokerage account (by the way, the market is down almost 5% from where it was when my sister and I first contemplated making stock gifts, so ‘tis still the season).
Any time thereafter, I can request a transfer of funds or stock from my account to the custodial account.  I can also request transfers from the custodial account to the joint checking account should my child require access to cash at any point in time.  It's as simple as that.

But for some additional, pertinent information, please see the Marketwatch.com article below called "5 Things to Know About Custodial Accounts for Kids":

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"Parents set up custodial accounts for children for various reasons, some legitimate and some not. Aunt Gertrude gives $10,000 to little Johnny: set up a custodial account to hold the money. Parents want a tax shelter for little Stephanie’s college savings fund: set up a custodial account to invest the dough until college time. Single Mom wants to hide some cash so she can qualify for financial aid and go back to school: move the money into a child’s custodial account and take it back later. You get the idea. The problem: many parents fail to recognize that custodial accounts have significant legal and tax implications. Here are the five most important things to understand.

1. That Money Isn’t Yours Anymore

Irina Schmidt / Shutterstock.com

When funds are transferred into a minor child’s custodial account at a financial institution or brokerage firm, the funds now irrevocably belong to that child. While the parent can, and usually does, function as the custodian (manager) of the account, the money can legally be used only for expenditures that benefit that child. In other words, parents are legally forbidden from using custodial account money for expenditures that benefit themselves (like a new car). And you can’t take money from one kid’s custodial account and use it to open up or supplement an account for another kid. Obviously, it can be a fine line between expenditures that benefit the child and those that benefit other family members. And I’ve never personally heard of a parent getting into legal hot water for raiding a custodial account. That said, staying on the right side of the law is the right thing to do.

2. Your Kid Will Gain Control at a Young Age
A minor child’s custodial account must be established under your state’s Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) or Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). Under applicable state law (most states have UTMA regimes these days), your child will gain full legal control over the account once he or she ceases to be a minor. This will happen somewhere between age 18 and 21 (in most states it’s 21). Remember: nice little kids can turn into obnoxious teenagers, and young adults are not necessarily much better. So consider the possibility of future “UGMA or UTMA regret” before taking the irrevocable step of putting money into a child’s custodial account.

3. Your Kid May Have to File Tax Returns and Pay Taxes
Any income from your child’s custodial account belongs to the child. If that income exceeds $1,000 (for 2013), a separate federal income tax return generally must be filed for the child using Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ. The child will probably owe some tax, and the Kiddie Tax rules may make it higher (see below). A state income tax return may be required too.
Exception: If all of your child’s income consists of interest, dividends, and mutual fund capital gains distributions, you may qualify to simply include the income on your Form 1040 and pay the resulting extra tax with your return. For details on this simplifying option, see IRS Form 8814 (Parents’ Election to Report Child’s Interest and Dividends) at www.irs.gov.

4. The Kiddie Tax Could Bite

It would be swell if children with substantial custodial accounts were allowed to pay the same tax rates on investment income as other unmarried individuals. If that was allowed to happen, a child’s 2013 ordinary income would typically be taxed at a federal rate of only 10% or 15%, and a 0% rate would typically apply to long-term capital gains and dividends. Unfortunately, our beloved Congress created the so-called Kiddie Tax to prevent such happy outcomes. Under the Kiddie Tax rules, a minor child’s investment income above $2,000 (for 2013) may be taxed at the parent’s higher rates. So the federal rate on a child’s interest income could be as high as 39.6%, and long-term gains and dividends could be taxed at up to 20%. The Kiddie Tax is calculated on IRS Form 8615 (Tax for Certain Children Who Have Investment Income of More Than $2,000) or on the aforementioned Form 8814 (when allowed).
Bottom Line: In the good old days, a custodial account could function as an efficient tax shelter because the income was taxed at the child’s low rates. These days, the Kiddie Tax rules make it difficult for custodial accounts to deliver meaningful tax savings.

5. There Might Be Gift Tax Consequences

For 2013, you can take advantage of the annual federal gift tax exclusion to move up to $14,000 into a custodial account for each of your children. So can your spouse. You can do the same thing next year, and the year after that, and so on. Gifts up to the $14,000 annual limit don’t reduce your lifetime $5.25 million federal gift tax exemption. That’s good! However if you transfer more than $14,000, you must file a gift tax return on IRS Form 709 (United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return). You probably won’t actually owe any gift tax (thanks to the $5.25 million exemption), but you still have to file the form."
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It should also be noted that the UGMA account can have an affect on the amount of federal financial aid for college a child is eligible for so please keep that in mind.


KM

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