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Is your inheritance taxable (and top ways to protect your inheritance)?

Is your inheritance taxable (and top ways to protect your inheritance)?

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or tax advice.

Always consult with a tax professional for your specific circumstances.

Let's face it, inheritance can be a sensitive subject.

But don't worry, we're here to help. In this article, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about inheritance tax in plain English, so you can feel more confident and informed.

So, let's dive in!

What is inheritance tax?

Inheritance tax is a tax that's charged on the assets you inherit from a deceased person's estate.

The person who inherits the assets typically pays this tax, not the estate itself. Inheritance tax laws vary depending on the country or state where you live, so it's crucial to understand the laws that apply to your situation.

Difference between inheritance taxes and estate taxes

It's important to understand the difference between inheritance taxes and estate taxes since they're often mistaken for one another.

Estate taxes are taxes that are charged on the total value of a deceased person's estate. These taxes are generally paid by the estate itself, not the beneficiaries.

In contrast, inheritance taxes are taxes charged on the assets inherited by specific beneficiaries. In some cases, both estate taxes and inheritance taxes may apply.

The amount of inheritance tax you'll have to pay depends on several factors, such as the value of the assets you inherit and the tax laws in your situation.

However, there are ways to avoid or reduce inheritance - we’ll discuss them a little later here.

Is my inheritance taxable?

The good news is that in most cases, you won't have to pay taxes on the inheritance itself. However, there are some cases where you may need to pay taxes on any income that your inheritance produces.

For example, if you inherit stocks or real estate that generates income, like rental income or dividends, you may need to pay income tax on that income.

The amount of tax you owe will depend on how much income the inherited assets generate and your income tax bracket.

Does the IRS count inheritance as income?

Well, in general, inheritance isn't considered income for tax purposes. But, as mentioned earlier, you may need to pay taxes on any income that the inheritance generates.

If you're unsure whether you'll need to pay taxes on your inheritance, it's always a good idea to speak with a tax pro. Get help with the tax laws that apply to your situation and ensure that you're following all the rules.

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What are inheritance tax thresholds?

Inheritance tax thresholds are used to determine how much of an estate can be passed on to beneficiaries tax-free.

The federal estate tax threshold is currently set at a high $31.61 million, so most people won't have to worry about paying federal estate tax.

However, some states have their own estate tax thresholds, which may be lower than the federal threshold.

There are states in the United States that impose an inheritance tax, which is different from an estate tax. An inheritance tax is a tax on the beneficiaries who receive assets from the estate, rather than a tax on the estate itself.

The 6 states that currently have an inheritance tax in place are:

  1. Iowa
  2. Kentucky
  3. Maryland
  4. Nebraska
  5. New Jersey
  6. Pennsylvania

The tax rate and exemptions for inheritance tax vary by state. For example, in Nebraska, only inheritances over $40,000 are taxed, and the tax rate ranges from 1% to 18%.

In New Jersey, inheritances over $25,000 are taxed, and the tax rate ranges from 11% to 16%.

NOTE! Remember that inheritance tax thresholds can change over time, and they vary depending on where you live.

Top ways to protect your inheritance from taxes

If you're concerned about the impact of inheritance taxes on your estate, there are several steps you can take to protect your inheritance from taxes.

Here are some of the top ways to avoid or minimize inheritance taxes:

  1. Give gifts during your lifetime: One way to reduce the value of your estate is to give gifts to your heirs during your lifetime. The federal gift tax exclusion as of 2024 is $18,000 ($36,000 per married couple) per year, so you can give gifts up to that amount without incurring gift taxes.
  2. Establish a trust: A trust is a legal entity that can hold and distribute assets on behalf of your beneficiaries. By transferring assets to a trust, you can reduce the value of your estate and potentially avoid estate and inheritance taxes.
  3. Make charitable donations: Charitable donations can reduce the value of your estate and potentially lower your estate tax liability. By donating to a qualified charity, you can also support a cause that's important to you.
  4. Consider life insurance: Life insurance can be used to pay estate taxes and provide additional support for your heirs. By purchasing a life insurance policy, you can provide your beneficiaries with tax-free funds to cover any estate or inheritance tax liabilities.
  5. Plan ahead: Estate planning is critical to protecting your inheritance from taxes. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can develop a comprehensive plan that takes into account your individual circumstances and minimizes your tax liability.

While it's not always possible to completely avoid inheritance taxes, taking steps to reduce the value of your estate and plan ahead can help to minimize the impact of taxes on your beneficiaries.

NB! It's important to work with a qualified financial advisor or estate planning attorney to develop a plan that meets your needs and protects your assets.


1. What is the tax-free inheritance limit?

In 2024, you can inherit up to $13.61 million from your parents without incurring federal estate taxes. However, be aware of state-specific estate or inheritance taxes, which may have lower exemption thresholds.

2. Are taxes due on inherited money by beneficiaries?

Beneficiaries typically don't owe federal income taxes on inherited money. However, taxes may apply to income generated by the inherited assets, such as dividends or rental income.

3. Should inheritance be reported on tax returns?

Inherited assets themselves are not reported on tax returns. However, income generated from these assets, such as interest or dividends, must be included in your tax return.

4. What qualifies as a significant inheritance?

Defining a "large" inheritance can vary widely, but generally, an inheritance in the range of several hundred thousand dollars or more may be considered substantial, depending on various factors such as estate size and cost of living.

Ines Zemelman, EA
Founder of TFX