Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Inheritance? How to Avoid Inheritance Tax?


When you receive an inheritance, the first question that comes to mind is do you have to pay taxes on inheritance? Here we will break down the complexities of inheritance taxes in an easy-to-understand way. We’ll guide you through the various types of taxes that might affect your inheritance, helping you navigate this often-confusing financial landscape.

Understanding inheritance taxes is crucial, especially if you’ve recently inherited assets. This guide aims to provide clear, straightforward explanations, ensuring you’re well-informed about any potential tax obligations related to your inheritance.

do you have to pay taxes on inheritance

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Inheritance?

An inheritance tax is a tax on the assets you receive from someone who has passed away. Various states have their own regulations regarding who is responsible for paying this tax. It’s not the same as the tax on the estate itself, which is different and usually handled before you receive your inheritance.
This tax depends on the value of what you inherit and your relationship to the person who died. For example, spouses often pay less or no tax. It’s important to know the rules in your state to understand how much you might have to pay.

Types of Pay Taxes Taxes:

Inheritance taxes come in different forms, each with its own set of rules. There are mainly three types: inheritance tax, estate tax, and capital gains tax.

Inheritance Tax:

Inheritance tax is a cost you pay when you receive assets from someone who has passed away. Each state sets its own rules and rates for this tax. It’s important to know that not all states charge it, and the amount depends on what you inherit and your relationship with the deceased.

This tax can vary a lot. For example, if you inherit from a close relative, you might pay less than if you inherit from a distant relative or a friend.

Inheritance Tax:

Capital Gains Tax:

Capital Gains Tax is applicable when you sell an inherited asset, such as stocks or real estate, and make a profit. The tax is levied on the discrepancy between the selling price and the asset’s value at the time of inheritance.

The rate of Capital Gains Tax fluctuates depending on your income and the duration for which you held the asset. For inherited assets, the holding period often starts from the time of the original owner’s passing.

Estate Tax:

Estate tax is a tax on the total value of a person’s assets at the time of their death. The government levies it before distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. This tax is separate from inheritance tax, which beneficiaries pay after receiving assets.

Common Inherited Assets:

Stocks and Cash:

When you inherit stocks or cash, it’s usually straightforward. Stocks can appreciate in value over time, and if you decide to sell them, capital gains tax could apply. Cash, on the other hand, is simpler. It doesn’t attract inheritance tax, but any interest it earns will be subject to income tax.

Retirement Accounts:

Inheriting a retirement account, like an IRA or 401(k), involves specific tax considerations. It’s crucial to comprehend the regulations regarding required minimum distributions and potential income taxes on these accounts.

Real Estate:

When you inherit real estate, its market value can significantly impact your tax situation. It’s important to know the property’s worth when a previous owner passes away. Owning inherited property may lead to property taxes, and if you sell it, capital gains tax could apply. 

Art and Other Collectibles:

Art or collectible items often require appraisal to determine their worth for tax purposes. If you sell these items later, you might face capital gains tax based on their increased value since the original purchase.

Understanding Inheritance Taxes

Inheritance taxes are not complicated, but it’s important to get a handle on them. These taxes apply when you receive a deceased person’s assets. Each state has its laws, so the amount you owe can vary.

Knowing how much tax you owe is key to managing your inheritance wisely. The tax rate often depends on your relationship with the departed individual. Closer relatives usually pay less tax, making it vital to understand your specific situation.

How Inheritance Taxes Are Calculated

The calculation depends on the asset’s value and the beneficiary’s relation to the deceased. Each state has specific rules and exemptions, making it crucial to understand the local laws.

Inheritance Tax Thresholds:

These are the minimum asset values at which inheritance tax kicks in. They vary by state and can change annually. Knowing these thresholds is essential for tax planning.

What States Have an Inheritance Tax?

The states that currently impose an inheritance tax are Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Each state has its rates and exemptions.

  • Iowa: Most family members like spouses and children don’t pay inheritance tax. Others pay 2% to 6%. The good news – this tax will end in 2025.
  • Kentucky: Close family is exempt. Others pay a tax that changes based on how much they inherit, ranging from 4% to 16%.
  • Maryland: Immediate family and charities don’t pay. Others pay 10%.
  • Nebraska: Spouses and charities are off the hook. Family members get some exemption, but rates have dropped to 1%, 11%, and 15%.
  • New Jersey: Immediate family and charities are safe. Siblings and in-laws have a small exemption. Tax rates are between 11% and 16%.
  • Pennsylvania: Spouses and young children are exempt. Adult children and others get a small break. They pay 4.5%, 12%, or 15%, based on their relationship.

When exploring inheritance tax across different states, it’s important to recognize the diversity in regulations. For instance, there’s no inheritance tax Georgia, and inheritance tax Kansas.

Moreover, there’s no Tennessee inheritance tax, Massachusetts MA inheritance tax, Colorado inheritance tax, Oklahoma inheritance tax, and neither California inheritance tax 2022. These states do not impose an inheritance tax, offering some relief to beneficiaries in these states.

On the other hand, Kentucky inheritance tax is still around, with specific exemptions based on the beneficiary’s relationship to the deceased. Each state’s approach to inheritance tax underscores the need for tailored estate planning and awareness of state-specific tax laws.

What States Have an Estate Tax?

States with an estate tax include:

  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.

Difference Between Inheritance Tax and Estate Tax

Estate taxes are taxes on estates before they are passed down. The deceased’s estate pays this tax before distributing the assets. Inheritance tax, on the other hand, is a tax on what a person receives from the estate. After the estate divides the assets, the beneficiaries pay this tax.

This means estate tax reduces the estate’s overall value before it is inherited. Inheritance tax affects individuals receiving the inheritance, varying based on their relationship to the late person and the state’s laws.

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Is Your Inheritance Taxed by the Federal or State Government?

The federal government generally does not tax inheritances directly. Instead, it imposes an estate tax on the deceased’s estate before distribution. Therefore, the estate is responsible for paying the tax before you receive your inheritance.

In contrast, state governments may levy an inheritance tax. This tax applies after you receive the inheritance.

How Much Is Inheritance Tax in the Federal Government?

The federal government doesn’t have an inheritance tax, but it does have an estate tax, with rates ranging based on the estate’s value. The IRS mandates that estates with a total of gross assets and previous taxable gifts above $12.06 million in 2022, and $12.92 million in 2023, must file a federal estate tax return. They also need to pay any applicable estate tax.

If an estate valued at $13 million in 2023, exceeding the exemption limit of $12.92 million, would owe estate taxes on the excess amount of $80,000.

How Much Money Can You Inherit Before Paying Taxes on It?

Tax-free inheritance amounts vary. For federal estate taxes, the exemption is usually high. This means you can inherit a large amount without owing federal taxes. State laws differ, so the amount varies by state.

In the six states of the United States, the rules around inheritance and estate taxes can vary significantly depending on the state and the size of the estate. As of 2023, the federal estate tax exemption is set at $12.92 million per individual over a lifetime, which increases to $13.61 million in 2024. This means that estates valued below these amounts are exempt from federal estate taxes.

Who Pays Taxes on Inheritance?

Beneficiaries might need to pay taxes on their inheritance, but it largely depends on where the deceased lived. Only six states charge inheritance taxes. So, if the estate or property is in one of these states, then there’s a chance of a tax.

If you’re a surviving spouse, you don’t have to worry about inheritance taxes – you’re exempt. For other close family members like parents, children, or siblings, it varies by state. Mostly, inheritance taxes affect distant relatives or those not related to the deceased.

How Is Inheritance Tax Calculated?

Inheritance tax calculations depend on the state you’re in. Each state classifies beneficiaries, like immediate family or distant relatives, and applies different tax rules for each group. The closer the family relationship, often the less tax you pay.

States usually set a minimum amount for inheritance tax to apply. If your inheritance is above this threshold, you’ll pay a certain percentage. This tax rate might be a flat rate or vary based on the inheritance value. It’s crucial to check the specific rules in your state.

Inheritance Tax Exemptions:

Each state has its own set of rules for inheritance tax exemptions. Usually, spouses are fully exempt, meaning they don’t have to pay inheritance tax on assets received from their deceased partner.

Other relatives may get lower exemptions, based on their relationship to the deceased. For instance, children often have a higher exemption limit compared to distant relatives or friends. This means they can inherit more before any tax applies.

How to Avoid Inheritance Taxes?

Avoiding inheritance taxes involves careful planning and understanding of tax laws. The goal is to manage how your assets are passed on so that the tax impact on beneficiaries is minimized. This process can vary greatly depending on individual circumstances and the specific laws of your state or country.

Some methods include but are not limited to:

Consider the Alternate Valuation Date:

When dealing with estate taxes, you can choose an alternate valuation date for the estate’s assets. This option lets you assess the estate’s value six months after death instead of immediately. If asset values have dropped during this time, it can significantly lower the estate taxes.

This strategy works well if the market is volatile or if the estate’s assets have depreciated. By opting for this later valuation date, you could save a considerable amount in taxes, making it a smart move for many estates.

Put Everything into a Trust:

Creating a trust can be a smart way to manage your assets. It provides you with the ability to dictate the distribution of your estate after your passing. Trusts can offer tax benefits, making them an effective instrument in the realm of estate planning.

By moving your assets into a trust, you may potentially decrease the inheritance tax burden for your beneficiaries. This approach not only simplifies the distribution process but also provides a level of privacy and control over your estate.

Minimize Retirement Account Distributions:

To reduce taxes on inherited retirement accounts, consider taking smaller distributions over time. This strategy can spread the tax burden and potentially help you remain in a lower tax bracket.

By minimizing distributions, you not only manage your tax liabilities better but also allow the inherited funds to grow tax-deferred. This approach is both tax-efficient and helps in preserving the longevity of your inheritance.

Give Away Money or Gift to Others:

You can reduce your inheritance tax by giving away part of your money as gifts. The IRS permits you to provide a specific amount each year without incurring taxes. This helps lower the total value of your estate, which can reduce the amount of tax your heirs might have to pay.

Gifting money can be a smart move, especially if you start early. By spreading out gifts over several years, you can significantly lower your estate’s taxable value. It’s a straightforward way to pass on your wealth while minimizing tax burdens.

Move to a Different State Before Dying:

Moving to a state with a lower tax rate or no inheritance taxes can be a smart move. It’s a strategy that can significantly reduce the tax burden on your estate.

This requires planning and understanding the tax laws of both states. Making such a move can ensure your heirs receive more of your legacy, with less going to taxes.

However, it also has its downsides such as the cost of relocating, and uncertainty about whether or not the target state will not impose similar taxes.

Call a Tax Professional:

A professional can help plan your estate to minimize taxes. They provide personalized guidance tailored to your circumstances. This guarantees that you make well-informed choices about your inheritance. Tax professionals keep you compliant and stress-free.

How to Report Inheritance to the IRS?

When reporting inheritance to the IRS, focus on any income generated from the inherited assets. For instance, if you earn interest or dividends from inherited cash or stocks, report these earnings on your tax return. It’s essential to keep track of any income from inherited assets for accurate reporting.

Generally, the inheritance itself doesn’t need reporting as income. However, special rules apply to certain assets like inherited retirement accounts. For these, you may need to report distributions taken from the account.


You generally don’t need to report your inheritance on your tax return, but certain inherited items, like income-generating assets, might have tax implications.

The beneficiary of the inheritance is usually responsible for paying any inheritance tax, not the estate itself.

Spouses are often not required to pay inheritance tax, and there can be exemptions or reduced rates for close relatives, depending on state laws.

Inheritances themselves aren’t typically taxable income, but money made from the inheritance, like interest or dividends, may be taxable.

Failing to pay inheritance taxes can lead to penalties and interest charges, and in severe cases, legal action might be taken.

No. While the inheritance itself isn’t reported to the IRS, any income generated from the inherited assets, such as dividends, is reported.

Generally, you don’t owe taxes on money received as a beneficiary, but there are exceptions, like distributions from certain retirement accounts.


In conclusion, whether do you have to pay taxes on inheritance,  largely depends on your state and the type of assets you inherit. It’s essential to know about these tax implications. Seeking professional advice can be a wise step in navigating these complexities.

Remember, inheritance taxes vary, and understanding your obligations is key. Staying informed and seeking guidance will help ensure you handle your inheritance responsibly and efficiently.

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