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17 States With Estate or Inheritance Taxes

Even if you escape the federal estate tax, these states (plus D.C.) may hit you

Worried about paying federal estate taxes? Don’t be. Federal taxes on estates apply to only very large estates. Your state, however, might have estate or inheritance taxes, and those can really bite. 

Most people don’t have to worry about the federal estate tax, which excludes up to $13.61 million for individuals and $27.22 million for married couples in 2024 (up from $12.92 million and $25.84 million, respectively, for the 2023 tax year). But 17 states and the District of Columbia may tax your estate, an inheritance or both, according to the Tax Foundation

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Eleven states have only an estate tax: Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The District of Columbia does, as well. Estate taxes are levied on the value of a decedent’s assets after debts have been paid. Maine, for example, levies no tax on the first $6.41 million of an estate and taxes amounts above that at rates of 8 percent to a maximum of 12 percent.

Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have only an inheritance tax — that is, a tax on what you receive as the beneficiary of an estate. Kentucky, for example, taxes inheritances at up to 16 percent. Spouses and certain other heirs are typically excluded by states from paying inheritance taxes.

Maryland is the lone state that levies both an inheritance tax and an estate tax.

Federal estate tax largely tamed

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law in 2017, doubled the exemption for the federal estate tax and indexed that exemption to inflation. The 2024 estate tax exemption is $13.61 million. The maximum federal estate tax rate is 40 percent on the value of an estate above that amount. The higher exemption will expire on Dec. 31, 2025.

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Relatively few people pay federal estate taxes. About 7,100 estate-tax returns will be filed for people who died in 2023; of those, only 4,000 estates were taxable, according to the Tax Policy Center. Because of the large exemption, few farms or family businesses pay the tax.

There is no federal tax on inheritances. Heirs can get an extra advantage when they inherit an appreciated asset, such as a stock or mutual fund. When they sell that asset, the taxable gain is generally computed favorably, based on the value of the asset at the time of the original owner’s death rather than the value when the original owner purchased it. That typically results in a smaller taxable gain for the heir.

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