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Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT)


The Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT) is a federal tax applied to wealth transfers that skip a generation, such as when a grandparent bequeaths assets directly to a grandchild. It is designed to prevent wealthy families from avoiding estate taxes through such transfers. The tax typically applies to gifts and inheritances that exceed the GSTT exemption limit, which is periodically adjusted for inflation.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT)” is:/ʤɛnəˈreɪʃən ˈskɪpɪŋ ˈtrænsfɚ tæks (ˈʤiːˌɛsˈtiːˈtiː)/

Key Takeaways

  1. The Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT) is a federal tax imposed on transfers of wealth that skip a generation, such as gifts or bequests to grandchildren or non-related individuals who are more than 37.5 years younger than the donor.
  2. GSTT is in place to prevent wealthy individuals from avoiding estate and gift taxes by passing assets down to multiple generations. The tax applies to both direct transfers (outright gifts) and indirect transfers (through a trust) of wealth.
  3. The current GSTT rate is 40%, but there is a lifetime exemption available (as of 2021, the exemption is $11.7 million per individual or $23.4 million for a married couple), which allows you to make generation-skipping transfers up to this amount without facing the tax.


The Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT) is an essential aspect of wealth management and estate planning, as it aims to prevent the circumvention of estate and gift taxes through wealth transfers directly to grandchildren or subsequent generations. By imposing a tax on such transfers, the government ensures fair treatment of wealth distribution among generations and closes the loophole that could otherwise reduce the government’s revenue from taxes. For individuals and families with substantial assets, understanding and strategizing around GSTT plays a crucial role in optimizing tax liabilities and ensuring that they preserve and pass on their wealth to future generations efficiently and without undue tax burdens.


The Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT) serves as an essential tool in the world of finance and wealth preservation, carefully designed to prevent families from utilizing wealth transfer strategies that might bypass successive generations in order to avoid or significantly minimize estate and gift taxes. In many cases, affluent families may opt to leave a large portion of their assets or wealth to their grandchildren, intentionally bypassing their children, to elude excessive taxation. GSTT seeks to counteract these tax-saving strategies by imposing a tax on transfers of wealth that skip one or more generations, effectively preserving the integrity of the tax system while ensuring equitable distribution of wealth and tax burdens across generations.

To understand how GSTT is used, it is essential to delve into the nuances of the tax and when it is applied. The tax is levied on trusts, direct transfers, and estate distributions that benefit recipients who are two or more generations below the grantor (e.g., grandchildren or great-grandchildren). However, the tax applies only when the aggregate value of the transfers exceeds the defined lifetime exemption amount, which stands at $11.7 million for 2021. The GSTT is not imposed on every intergenerational transfer, but rather primarily affects high-net-worth individuals seeking to sidestep estate taxes. By incorporating GSTT into the broader tax regime, the government effectively discourages tax evasion schemes involving generational wealth transfers and promotes a more just, transparent, and equitable taxation system.


Example 1: John is a wealthy individual with a significant estate. He decides to set up a generation-skipping trust for his grandchildren, allocating $20 million to the trust. John’s children are still alive, but instead of leaving them assets directly, John decides to bypass them in order to ensure the money goes directly to his grandchildren. As a result, the $20 million transfer is subjected to the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT).

Example 2:Samantha is a successful entrepreneur with a net worth of $50 million. She has a son, Michael, and two granddaughters, Emily and Olivia. Samantha wants to provide for her granddaughters’ education and future financial stability, so she creates an irrevocable trust for them, funding it with $10 million. Since the funds will skip her son, Michael, the $10 million transfer will be subject to the GSTT.

Example 3:William, an affluent investor, has a daughter named Lisa and two grandchildren, Jack and Emma. William sets up a transfer-on-death (TOD) account, designating Jack and Emma as the beneficiaries. When William passes away, the assets held in the TOD account bypass his daughter Lisa and go directly to his grandchildren. The Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax will apply to the value of the assets transferred to Jack and Emma.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT)?

The Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GSTT) is a federal tax imposed on transfers of wealth made to individuals more than one generation below the transferor, effectively bypassing the immediate generation. It is levied in addition to estate and gift taxes.

When was the GSTT introduced, and what is its purpose?

The GSTT was introduced in 1986 under the Tax Reform Act and serves to prevent the avoidance of estate and gift taxes through transfers made directly to grandchildren rather than their parents.

What types of transfers are subject to the GSTT?

The GSTT applies to three types of transfers: direct skips, taxable distributions, and taxable terminations. Direct skips involve outright gifts or bequests to a beneficiary more than one generation below the grantor, while taxable distributions and taxable terminations involve transfers from trusts.

Are there any exemptions or exclusions from the GSTT?

Yes, there is a lifetime exemption that allows for a certain amount of wealth to be transferred without incurring the GSTT. As of 2021, the exemption limit is $11.7 million per individual. Additionally, direct transfers to a spouse or charitable organizations are excluded from the GSTT.

How is the GSTT rate calculated?

The GSTT rate is calculated based on the maximum federal estate tax rate. As of 2021, the GSTT rate is 40%.

Can GSTT be minimized through estate planning?

Yes, various estate planning techniques can be employed to minimize or avoid the impact of GSTT. Such strategies include creating trusts, utilizing annual gift tax exclusions, and taking advantage of the GSTT exclusion allowance.

Do states also have generation-skipping transfer taxes?

Most states do not have a separate generation-skipping transfer tax. However, some states might have inheritance or estate taxes that could impact the transfer of wealth between generations. It is important to consult a tax professional to understand specific state taxes that may apply to your situation.

What is the filing deadline for GSTT returns?

The filing deadline for GSTT returns is generally the same as the deadline for filing federal estate tax returns, which is nine months after the decedent’s date of death or a taxable event. However, an automatic six-month extension can be requested.

How can I determine if I need to file a GSTT return?

If you are a trustee, executor, or an individual involved in making a generation-skipping transfer, it is important to consult a tax advisor or attorney to ensure compliance with GSTT reporting requirements and confirm whether you need to file a return.

Related Finance Terms

  • Trusts and Estate Planning
  • Gift Tax Exemptions
  • Beneficiary Designations
  • Dynasty Trusts
  • Tax Planning Strategies

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