Now’s the time of year when many young adults are about to head back to college — or to enter their first year of higher education. If you have a grandchild who’ll be in college this fall and you’re concerned about gift and estate taxes, you may want to consider paying some of his or her tuition.
Cash gifts to an individual generally are subject to gift tax unless you apply your $14,000 per beneficiary annual exclusion or use part of your $5.34 million lifetime gift tax exemption (which will reduce the estate tax exemption available at your death dollar-for-dollar). Gifts to grandchildren are generally also subject to the generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax unless, again, you apply your $14,000 annual exclusion or use part of your $5.34 million GST tax exemption.
But tuition payments you make directly to the educational institution are tax-free without using any of your exclusions or exemptions, preserving them for other asset transfers.