When a beneficiary inherits property from a decedent, the asset receives a step-up in basis to its value on the date of death – which is both a tax perk for inheritors, and a form of tax simplification (as beneficiaries otherwise may not know what the decedent’s original cost basis was anyway).
However, with hard-to-value assets, there may be a disagreement between the valuation for estate tax purposes, and the value used by the beneficiary for cost basis reporting. After all, the estate prefers a small value (to minimize estate taxes) while the beneficiary ideally wants the highest possible value reported (to get a higher basis step up). And in the past, it was even possible for the executor and beneficiary to report different amounts, each to their own benefit (and the detriment of the IRS!).
To close this perceived “loophole”, in 2015 Congress created the new IRC Section 1014(f) that requires beneficiaries to use a date-of-death valuation for cost basis purposes that is no larger than the amount reported on the estate tax return, curbing the abuse. In addition, Congress also established the new IRC Section 6035, which requires executors to file a new Form 8971 to notify the IRS who the beneficiaries are, along with a Schedule A that informs both the IRS and the beneficiaries what their inherited cost basis will be.
The good news of the new reporting form is that it should actually ease the burden for beneficiaries who need to determine cost basis for their inherited assets. However, the requirement is a new burden for executors, who may struggle to follow the 30-days-after-Form-706 deadline for filing the new Form 8971 and supporting Schedule A, especially in situations where it takes a long time to identify all the beneficiaries and determine which property will be distributed to them. In fact, ironically the rules have been so complex to roll out, that the IRS has had to repeatedly delay its implementation as well, though the new Form 8971 reporting requirements are now scheduled to take effect by June 30 of 2016, and will apply retroactively back to any estate tax returns filed since last July 31 of 2015!