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Unified Tax Credit


The Unified Tax Credit, also known as the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption, is a certain amount provided by U.S. tax code that individuals can gift during their lifetime or bequeath upon their death without incurring federal gift or estate taxes. This credit limit is determined by congress and adjusted periodically for inflation. As of 2022, the limit is $12.06 million per individual, but it’s subject to change in future years.


‘Unified Tax Credit’ in phonetics is – /ˈyo͞onəˌfīd/ /taks/ /ˈkredət/

Key Takeaways


  1. The Unified Tax Credit is a feature of the U.S. federal tax code that combines the lifetime gift tax exemption and the estate tax exemption. This means that an individual can transfer a certain amount of wealth, either while they are alive or upon their death, without incurring these taxes.
  2. The amount that can be given tax-free is adjusted for inflation over time. As of 2022, the exemption amount is $12.06 million for an individual and $24.12 million for a married couple. Anything above this amount would be taxed.
  3. However, it’s important to note that any portion of the exemption used during one’s lifetime to avoid paying gift taxes reduces the amount that will be exempt from estate tax upon death. So, it must be planned and used judiciously.



The Unified Tax Credit, also known as the Unified Lifetime Gift and Estate Tax Credit, is significant in the realm of business and finance because it provides a way for individuals to pass on their wealth without incurring excessive estate or gift taxes. This tax credit essentially offsets the estate or gift tax liability that an individual might otherwise owe when they transfer a substantial amount of wealth, either as a gift during their lifetime or as an inheritance after their death. Consequently, it plays a critical role in estate planning and wealth management strategies, potentially saving individuals and their beneficiaries substantial amounts of money and limiting tax liability. Without this credit, the tax burden associated with wealth transfer could be substantially higher.


The Unified Tax Credit, primarily used in the realm of estate planning and taxation, plays a pivotal role in minimizing or completely offsetting the tax liability posed by the federal gift and estate tax. This tax credit’s purpose is to protect a certain amount of assets from federal estate or gift taxes, essentially making it a form of tax break to benefit the individual or estate and preserve wealth through generations. By applying this credit, individuals are able to transfer substantial wealth without necessitating tax payment, thus enabling them to safeguard their assets, estate, or gift value.Indeed, the Unified Tax Credit is an integral tool for asset protection and tax planning strategies. Taking into account that tax laws can impose significant financial burdens, particularly on larger estates, the utilization of this credit provides an avenue to maximize the value passed on to beneficiaries. Whether utilized during lifetime as a gift or upon death as part of an estate, the Unified Tax Credit enables individuals to leverage significant value transfers to their chosen beneficiaries without the imposition of federal tax up to the prescribed limit. Essentially, this tax credit empowers individuals with more control over their financial legacy and provides a mechanism to protect it from taxation.


1. Estate Planning: The Unified Tax Credit is prominent in estate planning in the US. When an individual passes away, their estate is eligible for taxation. However, the IRS allows a certain amount to be exempted from this taxation through the Unified Tax Credit. For example, in 2021, the federal estate tax exempts $11.7 million for a single individual. This means that if a person passed away holding assets of $12 million, only $300,000 would be subject to the estate tax due to the application of the Unified Tax Credit. 2. Gifting Property: Another real world example involves gifting property. Let’s say you decide to give a real estate property to your child, and the property is worth $2 million, which is above the annual exclusion limit for gift tax ($15,000 as of 2021). You could use part of your Unified Tax Credit to avoid paying gift tax on the property. This would reduce the remaining Unified Credit that could be used against your estate when you pass away.3. Hybrid Trusts: In the context of Family Limited Partnerships (FLPs) or Family Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs), assets are placed in these entities and shares are gifted to heirs over time. Each share is subject to the annual gift tax exemption, but beyond that, the remainder is covered by the Unified Tax Credit. For example, if an individual gifts their child shares from an FLP worth $115,000, the $15,000 is covered by the annual gift tax exemption and the $100,000 by the Unified Tax Credit. Thus allowing high-value assets to pass onto heirs without incurring massive tax liabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Unified Tax Credit?

The Unified Tax Credit, also known as the Unified Credit or Lifetime Gift Tax Exemption, is a provision in the United States tax code that allows individuals to transfer a certain amount of assets tax-free during their lifetime or at death.

What is the current amount of the Unified Tax Credit?

As of 2022, the Unified Tax Credit allows individuals to transfer up to $12.06 million tax-free. This limit is subject to change annually due to inflation adjustments.

How does the Unified Tax Credit apply to estate taxes?

The Unified Tax Credit can be used to offset the amount of estate taxes owed. If the value of an individual’s estate exceeds the exempt amount, the Unified Tax Credit can significantly reduce the amount of estate taxes payable.

Can the Unified Tax Credit be used for lifetime gifts?

Yes, the Unified Tax Credit can be applied to lifetime gifts as part of the Lifetime Gift Tax Exemption. This means you can give away assets up to the exempt amount during your lifetime without incurring federal gift tax.

What happens if the credit limit is exceeded?

If an individual’s estate or lifetime gifts exceed the current Unified Tax Credit limit, the excess is subject to federal estate or gift tax, which is generally paid by the estate or the person giving the gift.

Is the Unified Tax Credit a one-time benefit?

No, the credit is unified because it applies to both the gift tax and the estate tax and because it is a lifetime tax credit. You could potentially use it multiple times up to the maximum limit.

Can the Unified Tax Credit be shared between spouses?

Yes, married couples can effectively double the amount of the Unified Tax Credit with a legal provision called portability, which allows a surviving spouse to use any unused portion of the deceased spouse’s estate tax exemption.

How is the Unified Tax Credit claimed?

The Unified Tax Credit is typically claimed when filing federal estate tax returns (Form 706) or gift tax returns (Form 709).

Does the Unified Tax Credit apply to state taxes?

The Unified Tax Credit only applies to federal taxes. Some states have their own estate or inheritance tax laws with their own exemptions and credits, which are separate from federal taxes.

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