Trust tax rates are outrageous. (See table of Trust Tax Rates below.) There are two types of trusts: a simple trust and a complex trust. The type of trust you get will determine whether or not you are subject to trust tax rates.
Simple trusts include the standard estate planning “living revocable trust,” and many other trusts. One example is a Living Revocable Trust or Family Trust. Simple trusts are often used in estate planning to hold property. Most of them are revocable.
Simple trusts usually do not have a tax ID number. If a tax ID is asked for, the grantor/trustee/beneficiary’s Social Security number is used. A simple trust is required to pay all of its income out every year to the beneficiaries. Technically, a simple trust can’t accumulate income.
On the other hand, a complex trust can accumulate income and make its corpus (trust estate) grow. Because complex trusts can accumulate income, they are required to have their own tax ID number. This will need to be an EIN. Even though complex trusts can accumulate income, it’s usually not wise to have the trust actually do so, because the trust will be taxed on the income it accumulates. With trust tax rates hitting 37% at only $12,500 it’s not good to pay taxes out of a trust. Additionally, the 3.8% Obama-care surtax kicks in at that same “top” level. Obviously, trust tax rates are outrageous.
Any trust, either a complex trust or a simple trust, gets a tax deduction for money it pays out to the beneficiaries. Thus, it is relatively easy to “zero out” a trust’s income and avoid paying taxes on trust money. A complex trust may have to file a 1041 tax form, but if there isn’t any income retained in the trust, the tax will be zero, even if a 1041 form is filed.
Note that when a simple trust says all of its “income will be paid out at least annually,” that doesn’t mean the money has to be transferred from the trust’s accounts to the beneficiary’s accounts. It simply means that the beneficiary(ies) have to claim all of the income on their tax return(s). Thus, a simple trust does not retain income, at least as far as the IRS is concerned. Yes, the money will still be in the trust’s account, but it has been recognized as paid out by having the beneficiary claim it as his or her income.
Think twice before letting your trust get into a position where it is subject to a tax liability. Tax rates for a trust are bad news.
Trust Tax Rates Table
|If taxable income is:||The tax is:|
|Not over $2,650||10% of the taxable income|
|Over $2,651 but not over $9,450||$260 + 24% of the amount over $2,600|
|Over $9,551 but not over $13,050||$1,904 plus 35% of the excess over $9,450|
|Over $13,051||$3,129 plus 37% of the excess over $12,950|
The rates in the table were set in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and updated for 2021 cost of living increases. These rates apply to estates and trusts. The Obama-care net investment income tax of 3.8% started in 2013 and applied to trust income above the $12,150 level. Trust tax rates have been inflation-adjusted each year, so note that the rates in the table above are for 2020 and check for the year you are interested in. The rates are set to go back to 2017 rates in 2025.
For great tax saving ideas, check out my 10 Tax Tips.
Note: This post was updated on September 13, 2018.