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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Maze of Tax Law

In a brand new revenue ruling (Revenue Ruling 2008-41), the IRS now recognizes that Charitable Remainder Trusts may be split up on a pro-rata basis and still preserve their tax advantaged status under the Internal Revenue Code.

A Charitable Remainder Trust (known as a CRT in estate planning lingo) allows the charitable give to receive an annuity (under a Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust, or CRAT) or a fixed percentage of the amount in the trust (Charitable Remainder Unitrust, or CRUT) to a noncharitable beneficiary for life, with the remainder to go to a charitable beneficiary. CRTs are highly regulated in various rulings and regulations propounded by the IRS. Under Revenue Ruling 2008-41, trusts can now split up into subtrusts, and still retain their tax advantaged status.

Practically speaking, this shows the intricacies of tax law and how uncertainty prevails over even what is seemingly the most minute of details. One would think, for example, that the IRS would (of course!) look at the overall transaction in interpreting a specific tax approach. But, not so! This small case is a window into tax law, and often times conflicting court cases, Revenue Rulings, and Private Letter Rulings on specific cases. This is "food for thought" for those who would go it alone. Not even the lawyers can figure out this stuff!

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