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Intrafamily Loans and How They Work

An intrafamily loan is a financial arrangement between family members—one who is lending and another who is borrowing. An intrafamily loan may be used to help a family member who needs money for a number of reasons:

●       buying a home

●       funding or purchasing shares in a business

●       adding accounts or property to investment portfolios

●       paying down high-interest debt

●       covering education expenses

Lending to a child or grandchild can be satisfying. Your loved ones can benefit from flexible repayment terms and interest rates while learning financial responsibility. This can be beneficial if the child or grandchild would otherwise have difficulty obtaining a loan through more traditional methods. It also gives you an opportunity to add to your investment income.


When You Should Consider an Intrafamily Loan

How you give or loan money to family members has potential tax implications. The right method depends on your family circumstances. An intrafamily loan might be beneficial in estate planning for wealth transfers between generations while minimizing estate tax implications. Further, by using an intrafamily loan to provide money to a family member rather than making a gift, you can maintain control over the principal amount and how it is used. Intrafamily loans are valuable tools for preserving wealth and offer the following advantages:

Estate Tax Planning

Under current tax law, gift and estate taxes are not imposed on gifts up to $13.61 million for individuals and $27.22 million for married couples in 2024. While many people’s net worth is not that high, intrafamily loans may be a great option for high-net-worth families.[1] 


If the family member receiving the loan invests the money and the investment returns on the borrowed funds exceed the interest rate charged, the excess growth is passed to your family member without being subject to gift or estate taxes. This strategy preserves your lifetime estate tax exemption amount as long as all of the formalities of issuing a loan are observed. However, the initial loan amount (the principal) and interest owed to you will still be included in your taxable estate because the principal and interest are legally required to be paid to you. However, as previously mentioned, the growth in the investment will not be included in your taxable estate.


You might also consider loaning the money to a trust for the benefit of your family member as part of your planning strategy. As opposed to the strategy of loaning funds directly to your family member, the loan would be made to the trust. If the rate of return from investing the loan proceeds exceeds the loan’s interest rate, the excess is considered a tax-free transfer to the trust.

Flexible Interest Rates

With intrafamily loans, you have the flexibility to set the interest rate at a level lower than commercial lenders, as long as the rate is not below the Applicable Federal Rate (AFR) (read below for further discussion on the AFR). The cost savings for the borrower can be significant. Further, if the AFR is high when you initially make the loan, it may be easier to reissue the note from you to take advantage of any future lower interest rates than it would be to refinance a note from a third-party lender.

Family Business Succession

Intrafamily loans can play a crucial role in transferring a family business from one generation to the next. By providing financing to family members who wish to take over the family business, for example, you can ensure a smoother transition and help sustain the family legacy.


Determining the US Interest Rate to Use with an Intrafamily Loan

Determining the interest rate for your intrafamily loan is crucial to avoid unnecessary tax consequences. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) publishes AFRs[2] monthly, broken down into three tiers for short-term, mid-term, and long-term rates.[3] Rates can be fixed or variable and structured to the advantage of both parties. The minimum AFR rate must be charged for loans over $10,000 regardless of a loved one’s credit rating, and it is usually lower than most commercial lenders. If the interest rate for your intrafamily loan is below the AFR, the IRS may require you to pay income tax on the income you should have received under the applicable AFR even though the borrower did not pay you that amount (called imputed interest). Also, the amount of interest you did not collect but should have may also be considered a taxable gift to the borrower, potentially reducing the amount of gift and estate tax exemption available to you.


Documenting the Terms

Since the IRS generally assumes that wealth transfers between family members are gifts, it is essential to have the proper documents showing that the transfer is intended to be a loan. You and your family member must sign a promissory note that adheres to the state-specific rules to properly document the loan transaction.


Important Things to Remember When Using an Intrafamily Loan

A comprehensive written promissory note is crucial. It helps avoid unnecessary tax consequences and clearly communicates the terms of the loan between family members to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.

Every financial decision has the power to strain family relationships. When trying to determine if an intrafamily loan is right for your situation, ask the following questions:

●       Will lending to one child appear unfair to others?

●       Should various loan types be considered for different children based on their personal situations?

●       If the child is unable to pay off the loan, will a loan default cause family friction?

●       Will the loan be forgiven at my death, or will it be considered a debt owed to my estate or trust? In either case, how would that affect the other children?


Gifts versus Loans

You must carefully consider the decision to gift versus use intrafamily loans, including the income, estate, and gift tax implications. The tax rules regarding intrafamily loans are complex and may result in unintended consequences if the loan is not done correctly. If you are interested in learning more about this tool, give us a call. Additionally, if you already have an intrafamily loan in place, it is important to properly document it in your estate plan to ensure that everything will proceed smoothly if you pass away before the loan has been paid back. We are happy to meet with you and your tax advisor to make sure that this strategy is right for you and your family.

 

 


[1] Kelley R. Taylor, What Is the Gift Tax Exclusion for 2024?, Kiplinger (Jan. 19, 2024), https://www.kiplinger.com/taxes/gift-tax-exclusion.

[2] Applicable Federal Rates (AFRs) Rulings, IRS.gov (Aug. 8, 2023), https://www.irs.gov/applicable-federal-rates.

[3] Id. 

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