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Can my parents give us $50,000 toward the downpayment or can they not because that's more than the $11,000 gift tax amount?

You + your wife + your mother + your father = 4 tax entitites.

Which means that your mother can give you $11,000 per year without tax consequences.
And your mother can give your wife $11,000 per year.
And your father can give you $11,000 per year.
And your father can give your wife $11,000 per year.

So your parents can give you $44,000 per year without worrying about the gift tax. If they do give you more they would not pay tax now, but it would reduce their exemption amount later (and someone who knows more than I do should explain what that means.)

They also want to fund my kids' college funds as well; is the limit the same for that and should they do that in a separate year or is it okay to do it in the same year?
Depends on what sort of accounts your kids' college funds are.

- Just a bank or brokerage account in your name or your wife's name? Yes, the gift tax totals mentioned above apply.
- A UTMA or UGMA in your child's name? Then the gift is to your child.
- A Coverdell or 529 plan? Also a gift to your child (I think), but the 529 plans allow them to clump several years of gifts.

Note that when the time comes they could pay moneys for tuition directly to the college with no gift tax ramifications.

Hope this helps!
- Megan

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