Did you know that Hawaii and the State of Washington have the highest estate tax rates in the nation at 20%? There are 8 states and DC that are next with a top rate of 16%. Massachusetts and Oregon have the lowest exemption levels at $1 million, and Connecticut has the highest exemption level at $7.1 million.
The Tax Foundation’s recent article entitled “Does Your State Have an Estate or Inheritance Tax?” says that of the six states with inheritance taxes, Nebraska has the highest top rate at 18%, and Maryland has the lowest top rate at 10%. All six of these states exempt spouses, and some fully or partially exempt immediate relatives.
Estate taxes are paid by the decedent’s estate, prior to asset distribution to the heirs. The tax is imposed on the overall value of the estate. Inheritance taxes are due from the recipient of a bequest and are based on the amount distributed to each beneficiary.
Most states have been steering away from estate or inheritance taxes or have upped their exemption levels because taxes without the federal exemption hurt a state’s competitiveness. Delaware repealed its tax at the start of 2018, and New Jersey finished its phase out of its tax at the same time. The Garden State now only imposes an inheritance tax.
Connecticut still is phasing in an increase to its estate exemption. They plan to mirror the federal exemption by 2023. However, as the exemption increases, the minimum tax rate also increases. In 2020, rates started at 10%, while the lowest rate in 2021 is 10.8%. Connecticut’s tax will have a flat rate of 12% by 2023.
In Vermont, they’re still phasing in an estate exemption increase. They are upping the exemption to $5 million on January 1, compared to $4.5 million in 2020.
DC has gone in the opposite direction. The District has dropped its tax exemption from $5.8 million to $4 million in 2021, but at the same time decreased its bottom rate from 12% to 11.2%.
Remember that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 raised the tax exclusion from $5.49 million to $11.2 million per person. This expires December 31, 2025, unless reduced sooner!
Reference: The Tax Foundation (Feb. 24, 2021) “Does Your State Have an Estate or Inheritance Tax?”
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