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§ 20.2010-1 Unified credit against estate tax; in general.

(a) General rule. Section 2010(a) allows the estate of every decedent a credit against the estate tax imposed by section 2001. The allowable credit is the applicable credit amount. See paragraph (e)(1) of this section for an explanation of the term applicable credit amount.

(b) Special rule in case of certain gifts made before 1977. The applicable credit amount allowable under paragraph (a) of this section must be reduced by an amount equal to 20 percent of the aggregate amount allowed as a specific exemption under section 2521 (as in effect before its repeal by the Tax Reform Act of 1976) for gifts made by the decedent after September 8, 1976, and before January 1, 1977.

(c) Special rule in the case of a difference between the basic exclusion amount applicable to gifts and that applicable at the donor's date of death. Changes in the basic exclusion amount that occur between the date of a donor's gift and the date of the donor's death may cause the basic exclusion amount allowable on the date of a gift to exceed that allowable on the date of death. If the total of the amounts allowable as a credit in computing the gift tax payable on the decedent's post-1976 gifts, within the meaning of section 2001(b)(2), to the extent such credits are based solely on the basic exclusion amount as defined and adjusted in section 2010(c)(3), exceeds the credit allowable within the meaning of section 2010(a) in computing the estate tax, again only to the extent such credit is based solely on such basic exclusion amount, in each case by applying the tax rates in effect at the decedent's death, then the portion of the credit allowable in computing the estate tax on the decedent's taxable estate that is attributable to the basic exclusion amount is the sum of the amounts attributable to the basic exclusion amount allowable as a credit in computing the gift tax payable on the decedent's post-1976 gifts.

(1) Computational rules. For purposes of this paragraph (c):

(i) In determining the amounts allowable as a credit:

(A) The amount allowable as a credit in computing gift tax payable for any calendar period may not exceed the tentative tax on the gifts made during that period (section 2505(c)); and

(B) The amount allowable as a credit in computing the estate tax may not exceed the net tentative tax on the taxable estate (section 2010(d)).

(ii) In determining the extent to which an amount allowable as a credit in computing gift tax payable is based solely on the basic exclusion amount:

(A) Any deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE) amount available to the decedent is deemed to be applied to gifts made by the decedent before the decedent's basic exclusion amount is applied to those gifts (see §§ 20.2010-3(b) and 25.2505-2(b));

(B) In a calendar period in which the applicable exclusion amount allowable with regard to gifts made during that period includes amounts other than the basic exclusion amount, the allowable basic exclusion amount may not exceed that necessary to reduce the tentative gift tax to zero; and

(C) In a calendar period in which the applicable exclusion amount allowable with regard to gifts made during that period includes amounts other than the basic exclusion amount, the portion of the credit based solely on the basic exclusion amount is that which corresponds to the result of dividing the basic exclusion amount allocable to those gifts by the applicable exclusion amount allocable to those gifts.

(iii) In determining the extent to which an amount allowable as a credit in computing the estate tax is based solely on the basic exclusion amount, the credit is computed as if the applicable exclusion amount were limited to the basic exclusion amount.

(2) Examples. All basic exclusion amounts include hypothetical inflation adjustments. Unless otherwise stated, in each example the decedent's date of death is after 2025.

(i) Example 1. Individual A (never married) made cumulative post-1976 taxable gifts of $9 million, all of which were sheltered from gift tax by the cumulative total of $11.4 million in basic exclusion amount allowable on the dates of the gifts. The basic exclusion amount on A's date of death is $6.8 million. A was not eligible for any restored exclusion amount pursuant to Notice 2017-15. Because the total of the amounts allowable as a credit in computing the gift tax payable on A's post-1976 gifts (based on the $9 million of basic exclusion amount used to determine those credits) exceeds the credit based on the $6.8 million basic exclusion amount allowable on A's date of death, this paragraph (c) applies, and the credit for purposes of computing A's estate tax is based on a basic exclusion amount of $9 million, the amount used to determine the credits allowable in computing the gift tax payable on A's post-1976 gifts.

(ii) Example 2. Assume that the facts are the same as in Example 1 of paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this section except that A made cumulative post-1976 taxable gifts of $4 million. Because the total of the amounts allowable as a credit in computing the gift tax payable on A's post-1976 gifts is less than the credit based on the $6.8 million basic exclusion amount allowable on A's date of death, this paragraph (c) does not apply. The credit to be applied for purposes of computing A's estate tax is based on the $6.8 million basic exclusion amount as of A's date of death, subject to the limitation of section 2010(d).

(iii) Example 3. Individual B's predeceased spouse, C, died before 2026, at a time when the basic exclusion amount was $11.4 million. C had made no taxable gifts and had no taxable estate. C's executor elected, pursuant to § 20.2010-2, to allow B to take into account C's $11.4 million DSUE amount. B made no taxable gifts and did not remarry. The basic exclusion amount on B's date of death is $6.8 million. Because the total of the amounts allowable as a credit in computing the gift tax payable on B's post-1976 gifts attributable to the basic exclusion amount (zero) is less than the credit based on the basic exclusion amount allowable on B's date of death, this paragraph (c) does not apply. The credit to be applied for purposes of computing B's estate tax is based on B's $18.2 million applicable exclusion amount, consisting of the $6.8 million basic exclusion amount on B's date of death plus the $11.4 million DSUE amount, subject to the limitation of section 2010(d).

(iv) Example 4. Assume the facts are the same as in Example 3 of paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section except that, after C's death and before 2026, B makes taxable gifts of $14 million in a year when the basic exclusion amount is $12 million. B is considered to apply the DSUE amount to the gifts before applying B's basic exclusion amount. The amount allowable as a credit in computing the gift tax payable on B's post-1976 gifts for that year ($5,545,800) is the tax on $14 million, consisting of $11.4 million in DSUE amount and $2.6 million in basic exclusion amount. This basic exclusion amount is 18.6 percent of the $14 million exclusion amount allocable to those gifts, with the result that $1,031,519 (0.186 × $5,545,800) of the amount allowable as a credit for that year in computing gift tax payable is based solely on the basic exclusion amount. The amount allowable as a credit based solely on the basic exclusion amount for purposes of computing B's estate tax ($2,665,800) is the tax on the $6.8 million basic exclusion amount on B's date of death. Because the portion of the credit allowable in computing the gift tax payable on B's post-1976 gifts based solely on the basic exclusion amount ($1,031,519) is less than the credit based solely on the basic exclusion amount ($2,665,800) allowable on B's date of death, this paragraph (c) does not apply. The credit to be applied for purposes of computing B's estate tax is based on B's $18.2 million applicable exclusion amount, consisting of the $6.8 million basic exclusion amount on B's date of death plus the $11.4 million DSUE amount, subject to the limitation of section 2010(d).

(3) [Reserved]

(d) Credit limitation. The applicable credit amount allowed under paragraph (a) of this section cannot exceed the amount of the estate tax imposed by section 2001.

(e) Explanation of terms. The explanation of terms in this section applies to this section and to §§ 20.2010-2 and 20.2010-3.

(1) Applicable credit amount. The term applicable credit amount refers to the allowable credit against estate tax imposed by section 2001 and gift tax imposed by section 2501. The applicable credit amount equals the amount of the tentative tax that would be determined under section 2001(c) if the amount on which such tentative tax is to be computed were equal to the applicable exclusion amount. The applicable credit amount is determined by applying the unified rate schedule in section 2001(c) to the applicable exclusion amount.

(2) Applicable exclusion amount. The applicable exclusion amount equals the sum of the basic exclusion amount and, in the case of a surviving spouse, the deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE) amount.

(3) Basic exclusion amount. Except to the extent provided in paragraph (e)(3)(iii) of this section, the basic exclusion amount is the sum of the amounts described in paragraphs (e)(3)(i) and (ii) of this section.

(i) For any decedent dying in calendar year 2011 or thereafter, $5,000,000; and

(ii) For any decedent dying after calendar year 2011 and before calendar year 2018, $5,000,000 multiplied by the cost-of-living adjustment determined under section 1(f)(3) for the calendar year of the decedent's death by substituting “calendar year 2010” for “calendar year 1992” in section 1(f)(3)(B) and by rounding to the nearest multiple of $10,000. For any decedent dying after calendar year 2017, $5,000,000 multiplied by the cost-of-living adjustment determined under section 1(f)(3) for the calendar year of the decedent's death by substituting “calendar year 2010” for “calendar year 2016” in section 1(f)(3)(A)(ii) and rounded to the nearest multiple of $10,000.

(iii) For any decedent dying after calendar year 2017, and before calendar year 2026, paragraphs (e)(3)(i) and (ii) of this section will be applied by substituting “$10,000,000” for “$5,000,000.”

(4) Deceased spousal unused exclusion (DSUE) amount. The term DSUE amount refers, generally, to the unused portion of a decedent's applicable exclusion amount to the extent this amount does not exceed the basic exclusion amount in effect in the year of the decedent's death. For the rules on computing the DSUE amount, see §§ 20.2010-2(c) and 20.2010-3(b).

(5) Last deceased spouse. The term last deceased spouse means the most recently deceased individual who, at that individual's death after December 31, 2010, was married to the surviving spouse. See §§ 20.2010-3(a) and 25.2505-2(a) for additional rules pertaining to the identity of the last deceased spouse for purposes of determining the applicable exclusion amount of the surviving spouse.

(f) Applicability dates -

(1) In general. Except as provided in paragraph (f)(2) of this section, this section applies to the estates of decedents dying after June 11, 2015. For the rules applicable to estates of decedents dying after December 31, 2010, and before June 12, 2015, see § 20.2010-1T, as contained in 26 CFR part 20, revised as of April 1, 2015.

(2) Exceptions. Paragraphs (c) and (e)(3) of this section apply to estates of decedents dying on and after November 26, 2019. However, paragraph (e)(3) of this section may be applied by estates of decedents dying after December 31, 2017, and before November 26, 2019. For the explanation of the basic exclusion amount applicable to estates of decedents dying after June 11, 2015, and before January 1, 2018, see § 20.2010-1(d)(3), as contained in 26 CFR part 20, revised as of April 1, 2019.

[T.D. 9725, 80 FR 34285, June 16, 2015, as amended by T.D. 9884, 84 FR 64999, Nov. 26, 2019]