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Q: What is the gifting limit for 2019? Is there any way to still make a gift that will count in 2018?

A: First, it is important to understand that there isn't really an annual gift limit. You can make a gift of any size to anyone that you choose. No one is going to show up at your door and stop you.

Although there isn't a gift tax limit, there is a gift ceiling that, if you cross it, will trigger some things. This is what most people think of as the annual gift limit.

For 2019, you can give any individual up to $15,000 without having to report the gift to the IRS. This annual gift exclusion remains unchanged from 2018.

If you make a gift or gifts to any one individual in excess of $15,000, you have to report it on a federal gift tax return. Remember that this amount is a total for the year, not a "per gift," and no, there is not a Christmas or birthday gift exception.

Now, what happens if you give $16,000 to an individual in one year? First, depending on the gift, it's pretty unlikely that you will get caught because, let's face it, the IRS has a lot on its plate. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't report it. If you make a gift in excess of the annual gift tax exclusion, bite the bullet and file the gift tax return. The folks at the IRS are serious people and you treat them as such.

Fortunately, filing the gift tax return is unlikely to result in you having to pay any actual tax, because each of us is given a lifetime unified credit. Once you file the gift tax return, you simply elect to use part of your unified credit to eliminate the gift tax liability. Easy peasy.

As to being able to make a gift in 2019 but treat it as a 2018 gift, it really can't be done. Gifting is kind of black and white. Unless you made the gift and it was accepted in 2018, it can't be treated as a 2018 gift.

Also remember that in order for a gift to be a "gift" it has to becompleted in 2018 to be counted in that year. For example, giving someone a check in 2018 isn't enough, because the check has to be negotiated. In other words, if you give someone a $10,000 check on Dec. 31, 2018, but they don't deposit it until Jan. 2, 2019, it's probably a 2019 gift.

Gifting has gotten a lot easier with the changes to the Federal Estate and Gift Tax and the ability to structure them. However, it's still important to follow the formalities.

Christopher W. Yugo is an attorney in Crown Point. Chris’ Estate Planning Article appears online every Sunday at Address questions to Chris in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321 or to Chris’ information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant, or estate-planning specialist.