The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has asked the Internal Revenue Service to issue guidance about how to apply carryover basis rules for the assets of taxpayers who died in 2010 in order to settle their estates. Basis is generally the original purchase price of an asset, such as stocks or property.
“The carryover basis regime is new and unfamiliar, and the April 18, 2011, due date for filing the information returns allocating the basis adjustments to particular assets is rapidly approaching,” the AICPA said.
The traditional “step-up basis” method, under which heirs were permitted to use the fair market value of the assets at the time of the decedent’s death, was repealed for 2010 by the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and replaced with carryover basis. Under carryover basis, heirs use the decedent’s original cost of the assets as their basis when calculating taxes due, but the executor is allowed to increase the basis of the assets up to $1.3 million. An additional $3 million increase is permitted if the assets are passed to the surviving spouse.
Among the specific questions for which the AICPA requested guidance are who will make the basis allocation if the estate does not have an executor, what happens to the decedent’s suspended passive losses, will the basis allocation form be a stand-alone form or a form attached to the decedent’s final Form 1040, how do the rules apply to community property, and how are net operating loss carryovers and capital loss carryovers measured?
A copy of the AICPA letter is below.
For more information or to talk with someone about carryover basis issues, please contact Shirley Twillman, AICPA senior manager of media relations, at 202.434.9220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 3, 2010
The Honorable Douglas H. Shulman The Honorable William J. Wilkins
Commissioner Chief Counsel
Internal Revenue Service Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Ave., N.W. 1111 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20224 Washington, D.C. 20224
Mr. Curtis G. Wilson
Associate Chief Counsel for
Passthroughs and Special Industries
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20224
RE: Request for Guidance on Modified Carryover Basis Rules under Section 1022
Dear Messrs. Shulman, Wilkins, and Wilson:
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) requests that guidance be issued promptly on the numerous issues arising from the application of the modified carryover basis rules under section 1022 to estates of all decedents who die in 2010.
The AICPA is the national professional organization of certified public accountants comprised of approximately 360,000 members. Our members advise clients on federal, state and international tax matters and prepare income and other tax returns for millions of Americans. Our members provide services to individuals, not-for-profit organizations, small and medium-sized businesses, as well as America’s largest businesses.
The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) repealed for 2010 the basis adjustment to fair market value at date of death (otherwise known as “step-up basis”) and instead provided for “carryover basis.” Generally, for 2010, the decedent’s original basis in assets is passed along to the heirs, with a basis increase of $1.3 million available to increase the basis of assets, chosen by the executor, and an additional basis increase of $3 million available for property passing to the decedent’s surviving spouse. The carryover basis regime is new and unfamiliar, and the April 18, 2011, due date for filing the information returns allocating the basis adjustments to particular assets is rapidly approaching. Below is a list of issues with which our members are struggling in trying to apply the carryover basis rules. The AICPA requests that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) address these issues in its forthcoming related guidance.
1. Who is to make the basis allocation if the estate does not have an executor or personal representative or if the estate has two or more co-executors or personal representatives?
Section 1022(d)(3) requires the executor to allocate the basis increases. However, it does not specify who is responsible in the event there is no executor, or there are multiple fiduciaries, or there is jointly owned property. If there is no executor or personal representative, then usually there is a trustee of a trust that was revocable until the decedent died. However, there may be more than one such trust. In addition, many decedents have jointly owned property that passes automatically to the surviving joint tenant and is not part of the probate estate or any trust.
We recommend that if there is no executor, the fiduciary of the decedent’s revocable trust should file the basis allocation form. As provided in section 6018(b)(4), the executor (or fiduciary of the revocable trust) shall include in the return a description of property not within the control of the executor or fiduciary and the name of the persons holding legal or beneficial interest in such property. We suggest that the basis allocation form contain a box showing the filer’s capacity, such as executor, fiduciary of revocable trust, surviving joint tenant, surviving spouse. It may be that the IRS will need to track whether more than one basis allocation form is filed for a decedent’s estate and will need to notify the owners of property identified on the form which is filed by the executor that the owners also need to file a form.
2. What happens to a decedent’s suspended passive losses?
There is a conflict among the statutes on how suspended passive losses are treated for a decedent who died in 2010. Under current law, there seem to be three different possible outcomes. First, section 469(j)(6) provides that when a passive activity is disposed of by gift, suspended passive losses are added to the basis of the passive loss property without limit as to its fair market value and they are not allowed as a deduction for any taxable year. Because section 1022(a) treats property acquired from a decedent in 2010 as if transferred by gift, section 469(j)(6) would seem to be applicable.
However, section 1022(b)(2)(C)(ii) provides that unused losses create additional basis increase if they would have been allowable under section 165 if the property had been sold at fair market value immediately before the decedent’s death. This provision creates additional basis in the amount of the suspended losses that can be added to the basis of any asset, but not in excess of the property’s fair market value at death.
There is yet a third possible treatment for suspended passive losses at death. Section 469(g)(2) provides that they are deductible on the decedent’s final income tax return to the extent they exceed the increased basis allowed for the property at death. However, this creates a problem, because the deduction allowed under section 469(g)(2) depends on the basis adjustment at death, which depends (in part) on the amount of the unused passive losses.
If section 469(g)(2) applies first, the passive losses are deductible in full on the decedent’s final income tax return regardless of whether there is sufficient income in the short period. Losses that are not fully utilized on the decedent’s final income tax return are lost, as under current law. However, if section 1022(b)(2)(C)(ii) applies first, the passive losses may not be deductible, but rather added to the basis of any of the decedent’s property not to exceed its fair market value.
Clarification is needed as to whether section 469(g)(2) or section 1022 applies first. If section 1022 applies first, additional guidance is needed. The total basis adjustment includes an increase of $1.3 million (section 1022(b)(2)(B)), unused built-in losses and loss carryovers (section 1022(b)(2)(C), and $3 million for qualified spousal property (section 1022(c)). If these total basis increases, which include suspended passive losses, exceed the amount allocated to the decedent’s property, then guidance is needed to determine how much of the suspended passive losses remain available, if any, to deduct on the decedent’s final income tax return.
In addition, it should also be clarified that section 469(j)(6) will not apply to treat the property as if transferred by gift in the event of the property owner’s death.
3. Will the basis allocation form be a stand-alone form or one attached to the decedent’s final Form 1040? Can the basis allocation form be amended after it is filed? If so, what is the time period for amending the return?
Section 6075(a) provides that the return allocating the basis increase shall be filed with the return of tax imposed by chapter 1 for the decedent’s last taxable year or such later date specified in regulations prescribed by the Secretary. The decedent’s final income tax return is due on April 18, 2011.
If the basis allocation form is attached to the decedent’s final Form 1040, then presumably the only way the executor may obtain an extension of time to file the basis allocation form is to request an extension of time to file the decedent’s final Form 1040. Note that a surviving spouse may file a joint return for the year of the decedent’s death if no personal representative has been appointed by the due date of the return. If the form continues to be attached to the Form 1040, clarification is needed as to how the personal representative makes the basis allocation on a form attached to a Form 1040 that is filed by the decedent’s surviving spouse.
If the basis allocation form is a stand-alone form, a procedure needs to be established by which the executor may obtain an extension of time to file it. Perhaps an automatic extension of time could be obtained if an extension of time is sought for filing the decedent’s final Form 1040.
We suggest that the authority in section 6075(a) be utilized to set the initial due date of the basis allocation form no earlier than six months after the form and guidance are issued. In addition, we suggest that the form be a stand-alone form and that a procedure be established for obtaining an automatic six-month extension of time to file the form.
4. How do the rules apply to community property?
Section 1022(d)(1)(B)(iv) provides that property representing the surviving spouse’s one-half share of community property held by the decedent and the surviving spouse under community property laws shall be treated for purposes of this section as owned by, and acquired from, the decedent if at least one-half of the whole of the community interest in such property is treated as owned by, and acquired from the decedent without regard to this clause. Under prior law, both the decedent’s one-half share of community property and the surviving spouse’s one-half share of community property received basis equal to the date of death value of the property under sections 1014(b)(1) and 1014(b)(6).
Even though both community property halves received a step-up in basis under section 1014, there apparently is not similar treatment under section 1022. Presumably under section 1022 there is only a maximum of $4.3 million of basis increase to allocate (assuming no additional basis increase under section 1022(b)(2)(C)) even if the decedent’s estate includes community property. It would be helpful for guidance to clarify that a basis allocation of $8.6 million is not available for estates with community property.
Also, in applying the basis increase, there is a question about whether the basis increase may be allocated to the surviving spouse’s one-half interest in the community property. If the decedent leaves all of his or her separate and community property interests to persons other than the surviving spouse, is the basis increase applicable to that property limited to $1.3 million, with the $3 million applied to the surviving spouse’s one-half interest in the community property?
Under section 1022(d)(1)(B)(iv) the surviving spouse’s community property interest is treated as passing from the decedent to the surviving spouse. Thus, we believe that the surviving spouse’s one-half community property interest should qualify for the spousal property basis increase under section 1022(c).
5. What is the holding period for property acquired from the decedent’s estate?
Section 1223(9) treats the holding period of assets acquired from a decedent’s estate as being held for more than one year if the basis of the assets is determined under section 1014. Under prior law, gain from the sale of a decedent’s property was generally treated as long-term capital gain even if a year had not elapsed between the date the decedent purchased the property and the date the estate or beneficiary sold it.
Section 1223(9) does not apply to property acquired from a decedent who died in 2010. Section 1022(a)(1) provides that property acquired from a decedent dying after December 31, 2009, shall be treated as transferred by gift. Section 1223(2) provides that in determining the period for which the taxpayer has held property however acquired there is included the period for which such property was held by any other person, if such property has, for purpose of determining gain or loss from a sale or exchange, the same basis in whole or in part in the taxpayer’s hands as it would have in the hands of such other person.
The starting point for determining the basis of assets acquired from a decedent who died in 2010 is the lesser of the decedent’s basis or the fair market value of the property at the date of the decedent’s death. A basis increase may then be allocated to the property by the executor. Thus, the basis of the property is determined at least in part by the decedent’s basis and so the estate or beneficiary who receives the property should be able to tack on the decedent’s holding period to its own holding period. This should be true even if the basis is the fair market value of the property at the decedent’s death because the decedent’s adjusted basis was greater than the fair market value. This should also be true even if the executor allocates some of the basis increase to the property in situations where the decedent’s adjusted basis was less than the fair market value on the decedent’s death.
We recommend that the guidance clarify that the holding period of assets acquired from a decedent who died in 2010 includes the decedent’s holding period for those assets.
6. How are net operating loss carryovers measured?
Section 1022(b)(2)(C)(i) provides that net operating losses of the decedent which would be carried from the decedent’s last taxable year to a later year if the decedent had not died create additional basis to be allocated. Treasury Reg. § 1.172-7(e) provides rules for determining one spouse’s share of a net operating loss from a joint return when separate returns were filed in earlier years or will be filed in the future due to death or divorce.
Confirmation is needed that when a joint tax return is filed in the year of death the decedent's net operating loss carryover is determined as of December 31, 2010.
7. How are capital loss carryovers measured?
Section 1022(b)(2)(C)(i) provides that capital losses of the decedent which would be carried from the decedent’s last taxable year to a later year if the decedent had not died create additional basis to be allocated.
Confirmation is needed that when a joint tax return is filed in the year of death the decedent's capital loss carryover is determined as of December 31, 2010.
Guidance is needed to calculate the capital loss carryover when the decedent lived in a community property state where all sales of community property assets are treated as arising one-half from each spouse.
8. What information needs to be attached to the basis allocation form with respect to the decedent’s basis in the assets and the current fair market value of the assets?
9. How is basis allocated to assets that will be sold by the estate? May the $3 million basis allocation for property passing to the decedent’s surviving spouse be allocated to assets that will be sold by the estate? If so, is there any tracing required to show that the sales proceeds were transferred to the surviving spouse?
10. Is there any time period after which the beneficiaries’ basis in assets as shown on the basis allocation form is final and cannot be challenged by the IRS?
Some reasonable limitation is needed because the beneficiaries, as well as the executor of the estate, need closure with respect to the basis in assets that they received from the decedent’s estate.
11. Is property that is held in a qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust treated as property “owned by the decedent” for purposes of section 1022(d)(1)(A) if the surviving spouse died in 2010?
Under section 1022(d)(1)(A), the basis increase may be allocated to property owned by the decedent at the time of death. Some decedents who die in 2010 may be the lifetime beneficiary of a QTIP trust established during life or at death by the current decedent’s spouse pursuant to section 2523(f) or section 2056(b)(7). If there were an estate tax in 2010, the assets in those QTIP trusts would have been includible in the current decedent’s gross estate. Clarification is needed as to whether the executor may allocate the basis increase to the assets held in the QTIP trust.
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We thank you for the opportunity to present our comments and welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues further with you or others at the IRS. Please feel free to contact F. Gordon Spoor, Chair of the AICPA Trust, Estate, and Gift Tax Technical Resource Panel, at email@example.com or (727) 343-7166; Frances Schafer, Co-Chair, AICPA Carryover Basis Task Force, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (202) 521-1511; Carol Cantrell, Co-Chair, AICPA Carryover Basis Tax Task Force, at email@example.com, or (713) 667-9147; Eileen Sherr, AICPA Senior Technical Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (202) 434-9256; or me, Patricia A. Thompson, Chair, AICPA Tax Executive Committee, at email@example.com, or (401) 699-0206, to discuss the above comments or if you require any additional information.
Patricia A. Thompson
Chair, AICPA Tax Executive Committee
cc: The Honorable Michael Mundaca, Assistant Secretary (Tax Policy), Treasury Department,
Room 3120 MT
Ms. Catherine Hughes, Attorney Advisor, Treasury Department, Room 4212B
Mr. James F. Hogan, Chief, Branch 4, CC:PSI:4, Internal Revenue Service, Room 4105