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Stock certificateGifting stocks is something you might consider if you want to help someone else build a portfolio. Or you could gift shares of stock you own to a charitable organization. There are different ways to gift stocks and it’s important to consider how doing so could affect you tax-wise. Depending on how the stocks are gifted, there may also be tax consequences for the person or organization you’re giving the shares to.

How Gifting Stocks Works

Gifting stocks simply means giving shares to someone else. You can gift stocks that you own or you can buy shares specifically to give away.

Stocks can be gifted to children, other relatives, charitable organizations or anyone else you want to receive them. You may consider gifting stocks in lieu of cash or other assets if you’re hoping to reap some tax benefits. Generally, gifted stocks that have appreciated in value aren’t subject to capital gains tax if they’re gifts.

There are different ways you can gift stocks to someone else, depending on who the recipient is. But the main ways to gift stocks include custodial accounts and trusts, though you may need something different when gifting stock to a charity.

Gifting Stocks to Minor Children

If you want to gift stocks to your kids who are under 18, you can do so by setting up a custodial account on their behalf. With a custodial account, you technically own the assets in the account on behalf of a minor child. Once they turn 18, the assets in the account belong to them.

So, for example, say you own shares held in an online brokerage account. You could set up a custodial account at the same brokerage for your child, then transfer shares from your account to theirs.

You can also gift stocks to minors using custodial accounts even if you don’t have a brokerage account yourself. Companies like Stockpile, for example, allow you to gift full and fractional shares to custodial accounts you open online for your kids. If you’d prefer to give physical shares, you can purchase paper stock certificates to gift through Give A Share.

Gifting stocks through a custodial account means that you maintain control over what happens to them while your child is a minor. But once your kid turns 18, he or she owns the stocks and you’d no longer have a say in how the account is managed.

Gifting Stocks to Adult Children or Other Relatives

Photo of a woman holding out her hand overlaid with a candlestick chart

If you have adult children then you could transfer it directly to their brokerage account. Or, you may decide to leave shares of stock in a trust that your children can receive assets from once you pass away. Alternatively, you may want to grant an early inheritance by gifting. Putting shares in a trust to pass on to your heirs could offer some tax advantages if you’re able to minimize estate and gift taxes.

If you’re considering the trust route, remember that only a revocable trust would give you the option to make changes later. Putting stocks into any kind of irrevocable trust would be a permanent transfer.

You can also use a transfer on death agreement to gift stocks to adult children or other relatives when you die, without having to set up a trust first. This isn’t exactly a will or a trust; instead, it allows you to transfer assets directly to one or more beneficiaries while avoiding the probate process.

Gifting Stocks to Charity

Donating stocks to charity can result in a tax break if you’re able to deduct the donation from your taxable income. How you can donate stocks to charity often depends on the organization and whether they have the capability to accept electronic transfers of stock shares. Your online brokerage may be able to help with advice on the best way to make a donation.

If you’re donating stocks to charity and you plan to claim that on your taxes, make sure you’re documenting the transaction properly. This usually means some kind of written letter detailing who the stocks were gifted to, the value or amount donated and the date of the donation.

A donor-advised fund may be something to consider if you have more than just a few shares of stock you want to give to charity or you want to make ongoing gifts. Donor-advised funds are cheaper to set up and maintain than private foundations for people who want to create a legacy of philanthropic giving while enjoying tax advantages.

Tax Rules for Gifting Stocks

Recipient of a gift of stocksWhen gifting stocks, it’s important to consider how you might be impacted when it’s time to file taxes. For instance, gifting too much stock to any one person could trigger the gift tax. For 2020, you can gift someone up to $15,000 (or up to $30,000 if you’re married and file a joint return) without having to file a gift tax return. That limit applies to individuals so if you have multiple kids, you could gift each of them stocks up to those amounts without paying gift tax.

Gifting stocks that have increased in value wouldn’t require you to pay capital gains tax. That’s why it can be better to gift stocks rather than sell them and give someone the cash. But if someone you gift stocks to turns around and sells them, they may be responsible for paying capital gains tax if the stocks increased in value while they owned them.

In terms of donating stock, you’re generally limited to 50% of your adjusted gross income for a tax deduction. So it’s important to keep that number in mind if you’re hoping to maximize a deduction for charitable donations. Talking to a tax professional can help you determine the best strategy for gifting stocks to a person or organization.

The Bottom Line

Gifting stocks can have advantages for you as the giver and for the person or organization receiving them. There are different ways to gift stock, and it’s important to remember the tax rules before making a gift. In the case of large gifts, you may also want to talk to your financial advisor about how it could affect your overall financial plan.

Tips for Gifting

  • Consider talking with your financial advisor about the best way to gift stocks to your children and how that might fit into your broader estate plan. If you don’t have an advisor yet finding one doesn’t have to be difficult. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with professional advisors in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized advisor recommendations online. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • If you plan to gift stocks to kids, consider whether you want to give full or fractional shares. Fractional share investing is a way to buy more expensive stocks in small increments. There are a number of online brokerages that allow you to purchase fractional shares in top companies starting with as little as $1 to $10.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Bluberries, ©iStock.com/Butsaya, ©iStock.com/AaronAmat

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She's worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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