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3 legit ways to shield your kids from tax burdens

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

In light of recent New York Times reports on President Trump and his family’s alleged attempts to dodge millions in taxes, we here at Yahoo Finance thought: what are some legitimate money moves average people can make to help their kids?

Get ahead of tuition costs

Let’s face it: most Americans aren’t rolling in enough money to be worrying about the best way to pass on hundreds of millions to their children. But if you want to pass on a meaningful financial legacy to your heirs, and you’re not in debt and saving enough for your own retirement, one way to make sure your kids can get ahead is to invest as much as you can into a 529 college savings account.

The beauty of a 529 is that in many states, the contributions you make into a 529 is tax deductible. And anyone, including family and friends, can contribute to it. Not only that, the tax law expanded this year to allow families to tap into their 529 plans (up to $10,000) for enrollment and expenses in elementary through high school, and either public or private school.

Right now our country has a $1.5 trillion student debt problem that isn’t getting better anytime soon as college costs for millennials are 300% times more than their parents paid. Sadly, according to college cost calculators that factor in a 5% annual tuition increase, by the time my 3-year-old daughter goes to college, the average cost for a private college education will be close to $100,000 a year.

Kickstart your child’s retirement savings

According to the Times report, Fred Trump hired his son Donald as a salaried employee to “sidestep gift and inheritance taxes” – but there are other legal tax strategies to benefit from if you’re a parent who owns a business and you’re able to hire your kids. One easy tax-saving investment strategy? Kickstart your child’s retirement savings by opening up a minor-Roth IRA, also known as a custodial Roth IRA.

As long as your child has earned income, you or your child can contribute as much as she has earned to her Roth IRA (up to $5,500 a year) and the earnings grow tax-free. The biggest advantage here is that the funds have so much time to grow, thanks to the power of compound interest. Let’s say you put in $1,000 a year; by the time your child is 65, she’ll have over $2 million saved for retirement. Not a bad idea considering the challenges facing Social Security. And as the parent, you’re in full control of the account until she’s 18 or 21, depending on your state.

“It can eliminate Social Security as a necessity,” says Chris Carosa, author of “From Cradle to Retirement: The Child IRA.” Carosa says setting up your child with an IRA is a good way to teach your kids how beneficial it is to save and invest, and build momentum for them to want to be financially savvy throughout their lifetime.

Another perk to the Roth? Your child can use the funds for more than just retirement. Before age 59½, as long as the account has been funded for five years, they can withdraw up to $10,000 in earnings toward their education or their first home, without paying a tax or penalty.

Gift from the grave

Unless you’re a multimillionaire, most families won’t have to worry about the $11.2 million estate and gift tax limit. Instead, most American families are focused on reducing the income tax burden as they pass on any assets like real estate, says George Metcalfe Jr., an estate-planning attorney at Richman Greer.

So if you own property and want to gift it to your child, you’ll want to wait until you die. This legal tax loophole called “step up in basis” significantly reduces the income tax the beneficiary would have to pay. For example, say you want to gift your child a piece of property that you bought for $100,000 but is now worth $500,000.

If you gift it to your child while you’re alive, he or she will have to pay capital gains taxes on the amount that appreciated from the original cost basis. But when you die, the current tax law states that any stocks, real estate, or other assets you leave to your heirs upon your death will pass on with the fair-market value on the date your beneficiaries inherit the assets. On that half-a-million dollar property, your child won’t have to worry about being taxed on the capital gains, unless income is being generated from that property, says Metcalfe.

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