If an adult child gives money to a parent to be used for living expenses, does the maximum tax-free gift rule apply?
UPDATED: December 13, 2019
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The IRS allows for monetary gifts of between $1.00 and $15,000.00 to be given to anyone without taxation. This $15,000 maximum gift can be given to anyone, including parents, children or those who you aren't related at all, and no tax liability will be incurred. However, the reason for the gifting has no relevance to the IRS, so long as the gift is given individually and not exceeding the maximum limit for that year. If your gift exceeds that maximum amount, tax may be assessed on it, even if the money is to your elderly parents for living expenses.
When gifting to your parents with funds, it is important to understand the specific rules associated with the gift tax. The first key thing to know is that the current rate is subject to change each year. This means that making sure that you aren’t giving beyond the current maximum is essential in avoiding further tax complications when it comes time for you or your parents to file. Further, if you give the maximum gift to each of your parents, you may end up causing them to be liable for the gift tax if they file jointly.
While there are essentially very few ways around this gift tax rule, you do have one option. Generally, money paid directly to a medical care provider for medical bills is not subject to gift tax. So, if your parents have medical costs, you can pay your parent's medical bills for them by paying the doctor directly, perhaps they can then use some of the money they otherwise would have paid toward medical expenses to cover their cost of living.
The laws surrounding this aspect of tax obligations are subject to change with every tax year, and it’s your responsibility to make sure that you are staying within those parameters. Your best bet before you gift anything to anyone is to consult with a tax attorney, a licensed accountant, or a tax professional to make sure that neither you or your parents are deemed liable for any tax obligation as a result of your gift.