Making the most of the small gift exemption

The small-gift exemption allows anyone to gift up to €3,000 in any tax year to anyone else

Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 01:06

I know that you have dealt with queries on the above subject many times and may wonder at another but mine is this. If a parent gifts €3,000 to an adult child in a single year, may that same child receive a similar amount from say, a sibling, grandparent, aunt, within the same year? Can this pattern be repeated any other year?

Ms E.C., email

The simple answers to your question are: yes, and yes.

The small-gift exemption allows anyone to gift up to €3,000 in any tax year to anyone else. And, having done so, there is nothing to preclude them gifting the same sum to the same people the following year, or to different people.

Of course, in general, people aren’t dishing out money to total strangers. It is generally a device for gifting within enlarged families – from parents/grandparents to children or grandchildren, aunts and uncles to nephews and nieces, or even among cousins or siblings. Clearly it is a very tax efficient way of helping family members over small financial crises, or those saving up for things like mortgage deposits.

Where Revenue will definitely get shirty is where they believe the gift is not actually destined for the recipient. If, for example, someone is saving up for a mortgage and each parent gifts them €3,000 in a given tax year, that is fine.

However, if the parents also gift €3,000 each to that person’s brothers or sisters and the siblings, in turn, gift the money to the person saving for a mortgage, the Revenue will deem it an abuse of the small gift exemption and all money gifted to the person saving for a home from the siblings will be considered to be a gift within category B – which imposes a lifetime cumulative limit (from December 5th, 1991) of €30,150. Anything above that limit will be taxed at the prevailing rate – currently 33 per cent.

That aside, there is nothing to stop different relatives – a parent, sibling, aunt or grandparent, as in your question – all gifting up to €3,000 in a tax year to a particular individual, say one of your children. And there is nothing to stop each or any of them doing the same in subsequent tax years. Many families do precisely that as part of estate planning to reduce eventual exposure to capital acquisitions tax on an inheritance, which also has the advantage of giving younger people access to money when they need it to start their independent lives rather than at a later point when a relative eventually passes away. Vodafone calculations I didn’t understand all the calculations in your article recently – old age maybe! I hold 380 new shares after restructuring. To sell them, you say: “you need to achieve a price higher than €4.58”. At present, they are quoted at £2.06 . Where would I get €4.58?

Mr P.ÓC., Dublin

I can assure you that tracking the value of your original Eircom investment and how it has evolved through several changes of ownership, share splits, special dividends, consolidations, etc, has, on occasion, confused the most mathematically literate among my contacts in the world of tax and accountancy, even some at Revenue itself. So I wouldn’t be worrying yourself on that.

Trying to achieve a selling price of €4.58 could be even more complex. There is nothing that says you cannot sell the shares for a price below that – it is simply that, if you do, you will have lost money on your original investment.

The upside is that at least you will have the cash back in your hands rather than it being stuck in Vodafone stock that looks very unlikely to get anywhere near the €4.58 level in the near term. Given that you have made a loss on your investment, you won’t have to worry about capital gains tax.

When you got in touch, the shares were trading at £2.06, you say. Alas, at the end of last week, they were back further, at £1.91.85, which comes to just over €2.40. In other words, the shares would have to nearly double in value before you were to make a “profit” on your original investment in Eircom. I think you’ll find that most people have, by now, given up on that prospect.

At current rates, your 380 shares are worth around €912 before allowing for the dealing costs involved in selling them.

Vodafone complaint My Vodafone Return of Value was posted in plenty of time but was deemed to have arrived late. There has been suggestions on internet discussion boards that at least some of the Freepost envelopes provided to shareholders may have had the wrong post code on them.

I have complained to Computershare, Vodafone, the Financial Ombudsman Service UK, the Ombudsman Services and CISAS [Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme] to no avail as all the ombudsmen services said it was outside their remit. I have now, it appears, exhausted my complaints options. Any ideas on what to do next?

Ms G.O’S., email

I admire your perseverance. It would appear you have been pretty exhaustive in your pursuit of sense over what, in the end, was a complex and pretty chaotic exercise in shareholder frustration.

I have not heard the line about post codes and I would not place too much store in it. It seems a reach to assume that envelopes with two separate codes would be printed, or that, if a mistake was discovered, no effort would be made to pulp the incorrectly addressed reply envelopes.

On the more substantive point, Computershare and Vodafone have explained to me at length the system put in place to manage the return of value to Vodafone shareholders and why it had to be as complex as it was.

But they have never properly explained why, given that they knew they had a huge cohort of very small, generally unsophisticated Irish shareholders, they insisted on routing everything through Bristol when Vodafone’s Irish shareholders are more used to dealing with its Dublin office.

I understand the cost of replicating the logistics and security on two sites would be onerous but, in the context of the overall cost of an already complicated shareholder transactions across many geographies, how onerous? I would argue that the reputational damage to both Vodafone and Computershare from the experience of shareholders in this exercise carries its own cost for both.

The two groups have also never explained, at least to my satisfaction, why there was an initial confusion over the deadline for return of forms, why the original Computershare deadline was extended in a way that, to my mind at least, made it impossible for late applying Irish shareholders to successfully complete the process, and why some people who posted their forms in time managed to miss the deadline.

It is fair to say that they explained in detail how the actual logging of mail worked and that they committed to investigate individual cases where egregious delays would appear to have been involved. However, from letters I still receive from shareholders like yourself, it is clear that many remain dissatisfied.

For all that, I see little prospect of your achieving a satisfactory outcome. The only remaining path is legal and that carries prohibitive costs. There was some talk (on the internet) about that but I assume it has come to naught

Send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara St, D2, or email This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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