Glossary of Tax Terms

Glossary of Tax Terms

Glossary of Tax Terms

Accelerated death benefits are benefits that can be paid from a life insurance policy to an insured who is terminally or chronically ill. If tax law requirements are met, the payment is treated the same as payments on account of the death of the insured (with a dollar limit applied in the case of a chronically ill insured).

Accumulated earnings tax  is a tax penalty of the highest individual income tax rate (38.6% in 2002) levied on a C corporation that accumulates more than $250,000 ($150,000 in the case of professional corporations) in excess of the reasonable needs of the business.

Adjusted Net Earnings from Self-Employment are the unadjusted net earnings from self-employment minus the deduction allowed in Code Sec. 1402(a)(12). The unadjusted net earnings from self-employment will usually be equal to the total income reported on a taxpayer’s Schedule(s) C (or Schedule F for a farmer). The deduction in Code Sec. 1402(a)(12) equals the product of unadjusted net earnings from self-employment and one-half of the self-employment tax rate. This deduction is mathematically equivalent to multiplying the unadjusted net earnings from self-employment tax by 92.35 percent.

Advance medical directive (see health care proxy; health care durable power of attorney; living will).

Alternate valuation is an election to value assets on the date six months after the date of death (or the date the assets are disposed of, if earlier than that six-month date) if it decreases the value of the gross estate and results in less estate (and, where applicable, generation-skipping) transfer tax.

Annual gift tax exclusion is an exclusion that applies to gifts of present interests on a per donee basis. The exclusion is $10,000 (adjusted for inflation after 1998); for 2002, the exclusion is $11,000.

Annuity is a contract under which a person is paid an income (typically for life). Annuities can be paid by an insurance company (called a commercial annuity), an employer retirement plan (called an employer annuity), an individual (called a private annuity), or a charity (called a charitable gift annuity).

Applicable credit amount is a credit used to reduce the tentative estate or gift tax in order to reduce it to the appropriate applicable exclusion amount (also known as the unified credit).

Applicable credit amount trust is a trust intended to allow married couples to make full use of the applicable credit amount in the estate of the first spouse to die without causing any additional federal estate tax in the first estate (also known as a credit shelter trust or a bypass trust).

Applicable exclusion amount is an amount ($1 million 2002) that can be passed free of estate and gift tax because tax is completely offset by an applicable credit amount. Note: After 2003, the amount for estate and gift tax purposes is not the same (the estate tax amount increases while the gift tax amount remains at $1 million).

Automatic survivor benefits are benefits that a qualified retirement plan must provide to a spouse (or surviving spouse) unless this feature is properly waived. The benefits include a joint and survivor annuity to a spouse and a qualified pre-retirement survivor annuity to a surviving spouse.

Bargain sale is a part sale, part gift of property to an individual or a charity.

Below market loans are demand loans on which interest is payable at a rate below the applicable federal rate or term loans where the amount loaned exceeds the present value of all payments due under the loan (using a discount rate equal to the applicable federal rate).

Bypass trust (see applicable credit amount trust).

Buy-sell agreement is a contract that obligates someone (or gives someone the option) to buy the shares from an outgoing owner at a fixed price (or formula) set in the agreement.

Cafeteria plan is a plan that allows employees to choose between cash and certain qualified benefits.

Call is an option that entitles the purchaser to buy, at any time before a specified future date, property, such as a stated number of shares of stock at a specified price.

Cash surrender value is the money that can be received when a life insurance policy is canceled.

Capital Gain is a gain from the sale or exchange of a capital asset. The portion of a net Code Sec. 1231 gain is also treated as if it were a long-term capital gain.

Capital Loss is a loss from the sale or exchange of a capital asset.

Ceiling for OASDI.  The adjusted net earnings from self-employment for the old age, survivors, and disability insurance (OASDI) portion of the self-employment tax are subject to a ceiling that changes annually. The ceiling is $87,000 for 1993 and $87,900 for 2004.

Charitable gift annuity is a type of charitable contribution entitling the donor to an income for life and a deduction for the difference between the value of the annuity and the value of the property contributed to the charity.

Charitable lead trust is a trust in which a charity receives an income interest for a set term, after which the property reverts to the donor or passes to some other non-charitable beneficiary.

Charitable remainder trust is a trust in which a noncharitable beneficiary has an income interest and the charity has the remainder interest.

Church employee income is income for services performed as an employee of a church or qualified church-controlled organization if the church has made an election under Code Sec. 3121(w) to be exempt from Social Security tax. Church employee income does not include the compensation of an ordained minister or the compensation of a member of a religious order.

Code Sec. 179 deduction is the amount that a taxpayer elects to deduct, rather than depreciation, of eligible property purchased and placed in service in a trade or business during the year.

Code Sec. 1231 Gain is the gain that remains after subtracting depreciation recapture recognized as ordinary income from the total gain realized on the sale or exchange of real estate or depreciable property used in a trade or business and held long term.

Code Sec. 1231 Loss is the loss realized on the sale or exchange of real estate or depreciable property used in a trade or business and held long term.

Commodity future is a contract for the sale of a commodity (such as wheat) at a future date for a fixed price.

Community Property is a form of automatic co-ownership of property between spouses who live in community property states.

Competency is legal capacity to make a will, trust, or take other legal actions.

Complex trust is a trust that can accumulate income and/or distribute principal to the beneficiary.

Contingency.  An existing condition, situation, or set of circumstances involving uncertainly as to possible gain or loss to an enterprise that ultimately will be resolved when one or more future events occur or fail to occur.

Copyright.  A copyright is a property right granted by the United States Copyright Office of the Library of Congress for works such as written works, works of art, and works of music. The copyright is good for the life of the author plus 70 years.

Coverdell education savings accounts (ESAs). Formerly known as education IRAs, are a type of savings vehicle for children under age 18 to pay for higher education costs.

Credit shelter trust (see applicable credit amount trust).

Cross purchase agreement is a type of buy-sell agreement where owners are obligated to buy out ach other’s interests upon the happening of a specified event (such as death or retirement).

Crummey power is a right under the terms of a trust given to a beneficiary to withdraw additions to the trust within a set period of time.

Custodianship Custodianship is a legal arrangement in which a person holding a fiduciary position manages the property for the benefit of another person. Custodianships can be arranged under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) and the Uniform Transfers to Minors Acts (UTMA) or by court designation.

Defective Grantor Trust is a trust designed specifically to fall within the grantor trust rules so that income is taxed to the grantor rather than the beneficiary but the trust is not includible in the grantor’s gross estate.

Defined benefit plan is a qualified retirement plan that targets the benefit the participant will receive and actuarially computes the annual contribution necessary to fund that benefit.

Defined contribution plan is a qualified retirement plan to which annual contributions are made and he retirement benefit the participant receives depends on the investment performance of the contributions.

Design Patent.  A design patent is a property right granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a new design for an article of manufacture. The legal life of a design patent is 14 years from the date it is granted.

Direct skip is a type of generation-skipping transfer to someone two or more generations below the generation assignment of the transferor (for example, grandparent bequests money to grandchild).

Disclaimer is an irrevocable refusal to accept a bequest of property made in writing to the executor within nine months of the decedent’s death where the person disclaiming has not accepted any benefits and the property passes to someone else at other than the disclaiming person’s direction.

Distributable net income is taxable income (not accounting income) of a trust.

Double indemnity is a feature of a life insurance policy that pays twice the face value if the owner dies in an accident.

Durable power of attorney is a document authorizing an agent to handle the financial affairs of a principal even when the principal becomes incapacitated.

Education IRAs (see Coverdell ESAs)

Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is a qualified plan funded by employer stock instead of cash.

Fair Value

, also known as fair market value, is the price that a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for an asset, assuming that neither is compelled to complete the transaction and each has reasonable access to the same information.

Family limited partnership (FLP) is a partnership with family members in which the senior member typically retains a general partnership interest (and thereby control) with limited partnership interests owned by other family members.

Farm Optional Method.  A taxpayer may use the farm optional method if the majority of the taxpayer’s services would be considered agricultural labor if performed by employees. Under the farm optional method, the taxpayer’s adjusted net earnings from self-employment are deemed to be the lesser of (1) 66 2/3 percent of gross farm income or (2) $1,600. The law does not limit the number of years for which the taxpayer may use the farm optional method.

Floor.  The adjusted net earnings from self-employment tax are subject to a $400 floor. If adjusted net earnings from self-employment are less than $400, the taxpayer is not subject to the self-employment tax. This $400 floor is equal to $433.13 ($400 ÷ 0.9235) in unadjusted net earnings from self-employment.

Freeze rules are rules for valuing certain intra-family gifts that attempt to minimize transfer tax costs by “freezing” the value of the gifts.

Generation-skipping transfer is a gift or bequest that skips the tax on the intervening generation (for example, grandfather gives in trust income for life to child, remainder to grandchild; transfer from grandfather to grandchild is a generation-skipping transfer).

Goodwill is an intangible asset resulting from a company’s ability to generate superior rates of return because of such things as favorable reputation, good location, and good employees. Goodwill can be generated internally or acquired in a business acquisition.

However, internally generated goodwill is not recorded in the accounts. Goodwill acquired in a business acquisition equals the excess of the purchase price of the other company over the fair market value of its other net assets. A company records purchased goodwill in the accounts and analyzes it for impairment at least annually.

Grantor retained income trust (GRIT) pays the grantor income for a term of years, with the property passing to family members at the end of the trust term. To obtain desired tax benefit, the trust must be in the form of a grantor retained income unitrust (GRAT) or a grantor retained income annuity trust (GRUT) or a personal residence trust.

Grantor trust rules are rules under Code Secs. 671 to 677 that tax the grantor on income from a trust even though the grantor is not an income beneficiary.

Guardianship is a legal arrangement in which a person acts in a fiduciary capacity to manage the property of another under court supervision. It may also involve the appointment to raise a child until the age of majority.

Health care durable power of attorney is a document naming someone to make medical decisions on the principal’s behalf in accordance with the principal’s wishes if the principal is unable to communicate his wishes.

Health care proxy is a document naming someone to make medical decisions on the principal’s behalf in accordance with the principal’s wishes if the principal is unable to communicate his wishes.

A Hobby is an activity in which the taxpayer does not engage with a profit motive.

Holdback provision is a clause in a trust that allows the trustee not to pay out income or principal to a beneficiary where it is in the beneficiary’s interest for the trustee to retain the funds (for example, where the beneficiary is on drugs).

Holographic will is a handwritten will without any witnesses (valid only in certain extreme circumstances such as war).

Impairment occurs when a company is not likely to recover the carrying value of an asset from the cash flows it will generate in future accounting periods. For impairment of goodwill to exist, the carrying value of a reporting unit must be greater than its fair market value. The amount of the impairment loss for goodwill is the excess of its carrying value over its implied fair value.

Implied Fair Value applies to goodwill. It is the estimated fair value of goodwill. Goodwill cannot have a true fair value because a company cannot sell its goodwill alone. A company calculates the implied fair value of the goodwill by determining the fair value of the reporting unit and subtracting from it the fair value of the net assets other than goodwill. The difference is the implied fair value of the goodwill.

Incentive stock options (ISOs) are stock options granted in connection with employment that are not subject to regular income tax on the grant or on their exercise (but may be subject to AMT in the year the stock is freely transferable and not subject to any substantial risk of forfeiture).

Inclusion ratio is a ratio used to determine the portion of property constituting a generation-skipping transfer that is subject to the generation-skipping transfer tax.

Income in respect of a decedent (IRD) is income earned by a cash method decedent before death but which is receivable after death by the decedent’s estate or other person.

Inflation-indexed securities are a federal security issued at a discount with daily adjustments for inflation (in addition to regular interest, adjustments to principal are reported as interest under OID rules).

Intangible assets are long-term assets that generally lack physical substance. They confer legal rights or contractual obligations and include such assets as patents, copyrights, trademarks, licenses, and goodwill. Receivables and investments in stocks and bonds are not classified as intangible assets on the balance sheet.

Inter vivos trusts are trusts set up during the grantor’s life (either revocable or irrevocable).

Irrevocable trusts are trusts whose terms cannot be changed after they are set up.

Joint ownership means co-ownership of property with other parties that allows the surviving joint owner to inherit the entire property upon the death of the other joint owner (includes joint tenancy and tenancy by the entirety).

Joint tenancy is a type of co-ownership that allows the surviving joint tenant to inherit the entire property upon the death of the other joint tenant.

Joint wills are a single will executed by two or more individuals.

Junk bonds are high yielding corporate bonds with an investment rating below triple B.

Kiddie tax is a way of figuring tax on the income of a child under 14 using the parent’s top marginal tax rate on income over a threshold amount ($1,500 in 2002).

Lapse is the failure to exercise a power of appointment.

Living trusts are trusts set up during the grantor’s life. Revocable trusts are trusts in which the grantor retains an income interest sometimes called a “will substitute” because trust assets pass without having to go through probate.

Living will is a document expressing a person’s wishes regarding medical care (such as withholding of feeding and hydration under certain circumstances) when the person is terminally ill.

Medicaid is a federal/state program that provides medical care for certain needy individuals (such as those requiring nursing home care who meet income and asset levels).

Medicare is a federal health insurance program primarily for those age 65 and older.

Multiple trusts are two or more trusts treated as one trust (with one income tax exemption and shared tax brackets) if they have the same grantor and substantially the same primary beneficiary and a principal purpose of using more than one trust is tax avoidance.

Mutual wills are wills made by persons pursuant to an agreement to dispose of property in a certain way.

Nonskip person is someone who is not more than one generation below the generation of the transferor.

Nuncupative will is an oral will witnessed by the required number of people.

Net gift is a gift where the donor conditions the gift on the donee’s promise to pay the gift tax.

The nonfarm optional method is a method of calculating the self-employment tax in which the adjusted net earnings from self-employment are deemed to be $1,600, assuming that the taxpayer has no farm income. The taxpayer may use the nonfarm optional method for a maximum of five years.

Nonqualified stock options are stock options granted in connection with employment that give rise to taxable income on their exercise (the difference between the value of the stock and the option price is ordinary income).

Offshore trust is a trust set up in a foreign country and used primarily for asset protection.

Original issue discount is the amount by which the stated redemption price at maturity of a long-term debt instrument is more than its issue price.

A passive activity loss is a loss from an activity in which the taxpayer does not materially participate as defined in the regulations under Code Sec. 469.

A patent is a property right granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to an inventor that prohibits others from making, using, or selling the product that is the subject of the patent for a specified period.

Personal holding company penalty is a penalty tax on C corporations levied if at least 60% of the corporate income is personal holding company income and more than 50% of the value of the stock is owned by not more than five individuals.

Phantom stock is a form of employee bonus that gives an employee the benefit of appreciation in the price of the stock.

A plant patent is a property right granted to a person who invents or discovers a new and distinct type of plant. The person must be able to cause the plant to reproduce asexually. The life of a plant patent is 20 years from the date of application.

Pooled income fund is a fund to which the donor receives an income interest based on the annual performance of the fund (made up of contributions from various donors).

Pourover trust is a trust set up to receive assets from other sources (such as inheritances under a will).

Power of appointment allows a person holding the power to direct who will ultimately receive the property. A general power of appointment allows the person to name anyone; a limited power allows the person to name a beneficiary from a set class of people, not including the holder, the holder’s estate, or creditors of the holder.

Premarital agreement is a contract between parties approaching their marriage which specifies rights and obligations of each party (also called a prenuptial agreement and an ante nuptial agreement).

Private annuity is an annuity issued by someone other than an insurance company (typically a family member).

Probate is the court process of settling a person’s estate (it applies only to assets held in sole name that are subject to probate).

Put is an option that entitles the purchaser to sell, at any time before a specified future date, property, such as a stated number of shares of stock, at a specified price.

Qualified conservation easement is a gift of an easement to a charity entitling the donor to a charitable contribution deduction and a partial exclusion from estate tax for the retained interest.

Qualified personal residence trust (QPRT) is a trust that allows the parent to transfer a home to a child at reduced transfer cost (parent retains a term interest, thereby reducing the valuation of the gift of the remainder interest).

Qualified retirement plan is plan set up by an employer to provide retirement benefits and obtain tax benefits.

Qualified terminable interest property trusts (QTIP trusts) are trusts qualifying for the marital deduction in which a spouse is given an income interest for life with remainder passing to others at the direction of the grantor.

Reciprocal wills are wills with reciprocal provisions made by two persons naming each other as beneficiary.

Redemption is a buy back by a corporation of its own stock. A redemption may be treated as an ordinary dividend or as capital gains, depending on the circumstances.

Relation back doctrine means that gifts made at year end by check are valid for that year even though the check is cashed in the following year as long as there were sufficient funds in the account at all times to satisfy payment of the check.

Required minimum distributions are distributions from qualified retirement plans and IRAs that generally must begin no later than April 1 of the year following the year of attaining age 70 1/2.

Restricted stock is stock issued for services and which is subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture.

Reverse mortgage is a type of home mortgage that allows an elderly homeowner to tap into the home’s equity without a sale or

conventional mortgage; reverse mortgage generally does not have to be repaid until the owner sells the home or dies.

Revocable trusts are trusts that can be amended, changed or canceled while the grantor is still competent (sometimes referred to a “living trusts”).

Right of election is a right of a spouse to elect to take a statutory share in the deceased spouse’s estate in place of the amount left to the surviving spouse under a will.

Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) is a type of retirement plan for self-employed individuals and small employers who do not maintain any other type of qualified retirement plan.

Second-to-die policy is life insurance on the life of a couple that pays proceeds only on the death of the second spouse to die.

A securities dealer is a person who holds securities for sale to customers

Selling short against the box is an investment strategy used to lock in gain now but postpone recognition of it to the following year.

Short sale is the sale of property that the seller does not own but is borrowed to deliver to the buyer and, at a later date, the seller buys substantially identical property and delivers it to the lender.

Simple trust is a trust that requires all income to be distributed each year to the beneficiary, has no charitable beneficiaries, and distributes no trust corpus.

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) is a retirement plan that allows self-employeds and employers to make contributions using an IRA for receiving the contributions.

Skip person is someone who is in a generation that is more than one generation below the generation of the transferor (or a trust if all interests in the trust are held by skip persons).

Special use valuation is an estate tax valuation method for farms and land used in certain closely held businesses in which the property is valued according to its actual use rather than its highest and best use.

Spendthrift provision is a clause in a trust that prohibits a beneficiary from assigning the interest in the trust to creditors.

Split dollar life insurance is an arrangement in which a company helps an employee pay for a whole life policy with the company retaining an interest to cover premiums it expends and the employee has the right to name a beneficiary to proceeds in excess of amounts belonging to the company.

Split gifts are gifts made by one spouse to a third party in which the other spouse consents to treat the gift as having been made one-half by each of them so that the annual gift tax exclusion is doubled in amount.

Springing durable power of attorney is a durable power of attorney that becomes effective upon the happening of an event (such as disability) specified in the document (See durable power of attorney).

Standby trust is a trust set up now but which is left unfunded until some future date.

Start-Up Costs are costs incurred before the taxpayer begins the active business that would otherwise be deductible as an ordinary and necessary business expense.

Stock appreciation rights (SARs) are a type of bonus paid to employees to allow them to benefit from the stock’s growth.

Stock redemption agreement is a type of buy-sell agreement in which the corporation is obligated (or given the option) to redeem the shares of an outgoing shareholder.

Surrogate decision making (see health care proxy; health care durable power of attorney).

Survivorship clause is a clause in a will or trust specifying which person is presumed to survive in case they perish under circumstances that make it impossible to determine actual survival.

Tax clause is a clause in a will specifying responsibility for the payment of federal and state death taxes.

Taxable distribution is a distribution of income or principal from a trust that skips a generation and is subject to the generation-skipping transfer tax.

Taxable termination is a gift or bequest that occurs when a property interest held in trust terminates and which is subject to the generation-skipping transfer tax.

Technological feasibility for internally developed computer software occurs when the company completes all activities necessary for the company to determine that it can produce the software product to meet all specifications. Technological feasibility generally occurs when (1) a company has finished both the product design and the detail program design, (2) the company has verified that the detail program design is complete and compatible with the product design, and (3) the company has determined that no uncertainties exist regarding development issues that have a high risk or the company has resolved such uncertainties.

Tenancies by the entirety is a form of joint ownership between spouses that enables the surviving tenant to own the entire property on the death of the other spouse and the tenancy cannot be severed except by mutual consent unless the marriage is ended.

Tenancy in common is a form of joint ownership where each co-tenant owns an undivided interest in property but there is no survivorship interest.

Tentative tax is the estate or gift tax before reduction for any applicable credits.

Term insurance is life insurance that provides only a death benefit (there is no build up of cash value).

Terrorist victims are those affected by terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Oklahoma bombing on April 19, 1995, and anthrax incidents occurring after September 10, 2001, and before January 1, 2002.

Testamentary trusts are trusts set up under the terms of a will.

Time Sharing is multiple ownership and use of property (such as vacation homes) where each owner has the right to use the home for a set period of time each year.

A trader is an individual who trades securities frequently for his or her own account.

Trust is a legal arrangement in which a fiduciary (called a trustee) holds and manages property for the benefit of another (called the beneficiary).

Trustee is a fiduciary who manages a trust.

The unadjusted net earnings from self-employment are the net earnings from self-employment before the deduction provided in Code Sec. 1402(a)(12). The unadjusted net earnings from self-employment will usually be equal to the total income reported on a taxpayer’s Schedule(s) C (or Schedule F for a farmer).

Universal life policy is a type of life insurance that provides both a death benefit and investment potential (allowing the insured to change or stop paying the premium after the policy has been in force for at least one year).

A utility patent is a property right granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to a person who invents, discovers, or improves a new process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter. The life of a utility patent is 20 years from the date of application.

Vanishing premium is an arrangement that can be set up with a whole life policy so that dividends and cash value built up in the policy at a certain point are sufficient to pay future premiums.

Variable annuity is an annuity in which the money is invested in mutual funds and the annuity payments that will be received depends upon the funds’ earnings.

Variable life policy is a type of life insurance that lets the policy owner invest the premiums (after payment of policy expenses) in mutual funds for investment return.

Venture Arrangement for Research and Development activities is when two or more companies join together in research and development activities. The arrangement allows the companies to share resources and the risk of the activities. SFAS No. 68 governs the accounting for such arrangements.

Whole life policy is life insurance that provides a death benefit and builds up cash surrender value.

Zero coupon bonds are discount bonds and, under original issue discount rules, that discount is treated as interest over the life of the bonds.