U.S. News & World Report explains in its article, “What Is Inheritance Tax?” that estate taxes and inheritance taxes are often mentioned as if they’re the same thing. However, they’re really very different in concept and practice.
Remember that not every estate is required to pay estate taxes, and not every heir will pay inheritance tax. Let’s discuss how to determine whether these taxes impact you.
Inheritance can be taxable to heirs. However, this is based upon the state in which the deceased lived and the heirs’ relationship to the benefactor.
Inheritance tax is a state tax on a portion of the value of a deceased person’s estate that’s paid by the inheritor of the estate. There’s no federal inheritance tax. Currently, there are only six states that impose an inheritance tax, according to the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. The states that have an inheritance tax are Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Inheritance tax laws and exemption amounts are different in each of these six states. In Pennsylvania, there’s no inheritance tax charged to a surviving spouse, a son or daughter age 21 or younger and certain charitable and exempt organizations. Otherwise, the Keystone State’s inheritance tax is charged on a tiered system. Direct descendants and lineal heirs pay 4.5%, siblings pay 12% and other heirs pay a cool 15%.
Inheritance tax is determined by the state in which the deceased lived. Estate taxes are deducted from the deceased’s estate after death and aren’t the responsibility of the heirs. Some states also charge their own estate taxes on assets more than a certain value. The states that charge their own estate tax are Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C.
Decreasing estate taxes are the responsibility of the deceased prior to his or her death. They should work with an estate planning attorney to map out strategies that can lessen or eliminate estate taxes for certain assets.
Remember that inheritance taxes are state taxes. They are imposed by only six states and are the responsibility of the heirs of the estate, even if they live in another state. In contrast, estate taxes are federal and state taxes. The federal estate tax is a 40% tax on assets more than $11.4 million for 2019 ($22.8 million for married couples). This is charged, regardless of where you live. Some states have additional estate taxes with their own thresholds.
Inheritance taxes are paid by the heirs and estate taxes are paid by the estate. An estate planning attorney can help to find ways to reduce taxes and transfer money efficiently.
Reference: U.S. News & World Report (October 8, 2019) “What Is Inheritance Tax?”