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What’s the Difference: Inheritance Tax vs. Estate Tax?

Inheritance Tax vs. Estate Tax: What’s the Difference?

When someone passes away, there may be taxes that are due to either the state or federal government. Two of the taxes that are related to this are inheritance tax and estate tax. Before you decide on how to manage your or your relative’s estate, it is important to understand the difference between these two taxes.

Inheritance tax is a tax that must be paid on certain gifts or property given away, while estate tax is a tax on the property that an individual holds when they pass away. Both of these taxes are assessed differently and carry different thresholds and exemptions, so it is important to understand the difference.

History of Inheritance/Estate Taxes

Inheritance and estate taxes have been around for centuries, with their roots dating back to ancient Rome. In the early 19th century, inheritance and estate taxes were introduced in the U.S. as a way to generate revenue for the federal government. Over time, the tax rates and thresholds for inheritance and estate taxes have fluctuated depending on the political climate. After World War II, for example, the threshold for estate taxes was raised significantly in order to encourage middle-class Americans to build wealth. In recent years, the rate of inheritance and estate taxes has been lowered, making it easier for individuals to pass along money or property to their loved ones.

How Inheritance Tax Differs From Estate Tax

Inheritance tax and estate tax are two distinct taxes that affect different area of the law. In the US, estate taxes are based on the value of an individual’s assets but inheritance taxes are based on the size of an individual’s inheritance. Furthermore, different regulations apply to each type of tax.

The main difference between inheritance tax and estate tax is how an individual qualifies for them. Estate taxes are paid by the estate of a deceased person while inheritance taxes are paid by those who receive an inheritance or gift from the deceased. In most jurisdictions, any value of an estate or inheritance over certain thresholds is subject to taxation.

Another important distinction to consider is who is responsible for paying the taxes. Estate taxes must be paid by the estate itself before the inherited assets can be disbursed, while inheritance taxes are passed on to the individual heirs. This means individuals may need to plan in advance to pay any inheritance tax they may owe.

Calculating Inheritance Tax

Inheritance tax is based on the value of the assets that have been passed from the deceased to their beneficiaries. The taxation of these assets varies from country to country, but in general, the value used for taxation is the sum of the market value of all the estate assets. This can include cash, property, investments, or life insurance proceeds.

The amount of inheritance tax that needs to be paid depends on the country’s laws and the amount of money or assets received. Typically, the higher the value of the inheritance, the higher the rate of taxation. For example, some countries impose a flat rate on the entire inheritance, while others may have different rates depending on the size of the inheritance.

Inheritance tax is generally collected by the government of the country where the deceased was a resident. It is important to note that there are some countries that have different laws related to inheritance tax, such as the United States, which has both state and federal taxes. Different exemptions and reliefs may apply to inheritance tax in different countries, so it is best to research the laws in the country specific to the individual’s situation to determine what payments may need to be made.

Calculating Estate Tax

Estate tax is a tax on an individual’s right to transfer their property after they die. It applies to all assets including real estate, investments, retirement accounts, and even life insurance. The amount of tax owed is determined by the value of the estate, which is usually determined by a professional appraiser.

In order to calculate the estate tax, you must first determine the value of all the assets in the estate. This includes any property owned by the deceased, as well as any debts owed by them. You must also consider any gifts that the deceased made during their lifetime and any trusts that are associated with the estate. After the total value of the estate has been determined, the rate of tax can then be calculated.

The current federal estate tax rate is either 10% or 20%, depending on the value of the estate. The exact rate depends on the size of the estate and the laws in the state where the deceased resided. Additionally, some states have their own estate taxes with separate tax rates. In some cases, these taxes must also be paid in addition to the federal estate tax.

It is important to stay up-to-date with the most recent estate tax regulations, since they can change from year to year. Additionally, some types of estates may be exempt from some or all estate taxes. Depending on the situation, it may be beneficial to consult an estate attorney or accountant to ensure that all taxes are paid in a timely manner.

Income and Opportunity to Avoid Inheritance Tax

The amount of inheritance tax you pay depends on your income level and the state you reside in. In some states, as your income increases so does the amount of inheritance tax you are required to pay. Even if you are at a higher income level, however, it is still possible to avoid paying inheritance tax.

For example, if you live in a state where you are required to pay inheritance tax, you can reduce the amount you owe by taking advantage of certain exemptions. Some states offer exemptions for specific types of assets, such as property or stock, while others offer exemptions based on the individual’s situation.

In addition, estate planning can also help you reduce the amount of inheritance tax you have to pay. You can structure your estate in such a way that the taxes are managed according to your preferences. This can help you avoid hefty taxes so that more of your inheritance can go to your beneficiaries.

It is important to note that the rules surrounding inheritance tax vary from state to state, as the threshold for triggering an inheritance tax and the available exemptions can differ. It is best to research the specifics for your state to make sure you understand all the rules.

Difference between Federal and State Taxes on Inheritance

Taxes on inheritances can be a complex subject. Each state has their own rules and regulations that can affect how your inheritance is taxed. In addition, federal taxes may need to be taken into account as well. Here, we explain the difference between federal and state taxes on inheritance.

Federal Taxes

The federal government imposes an estate tax, which is calculated as a percentage of the total value of the estate. This tax is calculated based on the total value of the assets owned by the deceased person at the date of death. This does not include any liabilities or debts they owed.

State Taxes

Inheritance taxes are imposed by states, rather than by the federal government. The amount of tax imposed depends on the state in which the deceased person was a resident. Each state will have different rules on who needs to pay the inheritance tax and how much they need to pay, so it’s important to be aware of the applicable rules.


Both the federal and state governments provide certain exemptions when taxing inheritances. For example, under federal law, individuals can claim an unlimited marital deduction, which allows a surviving spouse to inherit from their deceased partner without having to pay estate taxes. Similarly, most states provide some form of exemption when calculating inheritance taxes, such as exempting certain family members or allowing for a set amount of assets to be excluded from taxation. It’s important to be aware of the exemptions that apply in each case so you can make the most of them.


When it comes to taxes on inheritances, it’s important to understand the difference between federal and state taxes, as well as how exemptions can affect the amount of tax you need to pay. Each state will have their own rules and regulations, so it’s important to research the laws that apply in your situation.

Inheritance Tax Reliefs and Exemptions

When it comes to inheritance tax, there are various reliefs and exemptions available for taxpayers. If you are an heir that has received an inheritance, you may be able to apply for reliefs and exemptions to reduce your liability for the tax. Generally, inheritance tax is imposed on the value of assets that have been received through inheritance, and the amount of the tax owing depends on the individual’s relationship with the deceased.

The type of relief available to an heir will depend on their relationship with the deceased. In some cases, spouses or civil partners may not have to pay any inheritance tax at all. In other cases, an heir may be able to receive a relief if the value of the property or asset is subject to a set limit. For example, the agricultural property relief is available if the property has been used mainly for agricultural purposes by the deceased in the seven years prior to their death.

There are also various exemptions to inheritance tax that can apply. These exemptions are generally based on financial limits, and can include things like charitable donations, transfers between spouses or civil partners, and gifts made to non-profit organisations. The exemption amounts can differ from year to year, so it’s important to check the relevant information before making any decisions regarding inherited assets.

Estate Tax Reliefs and Exemptions

When dealing with estate taxes, there are a variety of reliefs and exemptions that could help reduce the amount owed. There are federal tax reliefs, such as the unified credit, which can reduce or even eliminate estate tax liability. There are also state-level reliefs, such as those offered by some states for small estates. It’s important to understand the rules and regulations for receiving tax relief in each specific case.

The federal government also allows a few other exemptions, such as the Charitable Deduction. This deduction allows a portion of the estate to be exempt from taxation when left to a qualified charitable organization. Similarly, another exemption known as the Marital Deduction is available for spouses who leave part of their estate to their partner.

It’s important to keep in mind that every state is different when it comes to tax reliefs and exemptions. For example, some states don’t have any inheritance or estate taxes at all. As such, it’s important to check your individual state law in order see what types of reliefs and exemptions are available.

Future Changes To Inheritance and Estate Tax

The laws and regulations regarding inheritance and estate tax are ever-changing. It’s important that you stay up to date on any changes to inheritance and estate taxes that could affect the amount of tax you owe. In the United States, federal and state governments regulate inheritance and estate taxes, so it’s important to stay informed of any changes in both areas.

In recent years, several states have made changes to their inheritance and estate tax regulations. For example, New Jersey has recently changed how much inheritance tax is owed after a certain amount of wealth has been passed down to a family member. It’s crucial to stay informed of any new regulations or exemptions from inheritance and estate taxes.

The federal government also regularly makes changes to inheritance and estate taxes. In 2017, the federal government increased the amount of wealth exempted from the federal estate tax. It’s important to know these changes, as they can have a significant impact on the amount of inheritance or estate tax you must pay.

It’s important to speak with an accountant or financial advisor before making any decisions related to inheritance or estate tax planning. This will ensure you don’t make any costly mistakes that could result in additional taxes owed.

Common Mistakes Made on Inheritance and Estate Taxes

Filing taxes can be daunting, but it’s important to make sure that inheritance and estate taxes are correctly reported.

There are several mistakes people can make when filing inheritance or estate taxes that can lead to costly mistakes, including:

  • Failing to properly calculate the value of an estate.
  • Relying on inaccurate information.
  • Missing deadlines for filing taxes.
  • Failing to provide necessary paperwork.

It’s important to research and understand the laws and regulations associated with inheritance and estate taxes to ensure you are filing them correctly. If in doubt, seek professional advice to avoid any errors.

Inheritance tax and estate tax are two common forms of taxation that can impact the financial assets of those who pass away. Knowing the important differences between them is essential for anyone who is managing the assets of a deceased person, as the decisions made directly affect the amount of taxes owed. Inheritance tax and estate tax differ in many ways, including how they are calculated and when they are applicable. It’s also important to consider any exemptions or reliefs that may be offered by federal or state governments.

Inheritance tax applies to the transfer of property or money within the estate of a person who has died, with the taxes imposed on the beneficiaries receiving the property rather than the estate itself. Estate tax is levied against the transfer of assets from the estate to the heirs. This tax is usually based on the total value of the estate at the time of death and is generally paid by the estate itself.

It’s important to be aware of the various income thresholds, tax brackets, and deductions that can affect the rate of taxation for both inheritance and estate taxes. Furthermore, understanding any available reliefs or exemptions can help reduce the overall burden of taxes for the estate or its beneficiaries.

Finally, it’s important to stay up-to-date on any proposed or changed tax laws, as these can have an effect on the amount of inheritance or estate tax that needs to be paid. By understanding the differences and complexities of inheritance and estate tax, it’s possible to ensure that assets are transferred in accordance with the law.


Having a reliable source for further research and information related to inheritance and estate taxes is important. Here are some resources that can help in understanding the topics more deeply:

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