Where Not To Die In 2022: The Greediest Death Tax States

Should death be taxing? Amid budget surpluses, states started slashing income taxes last year. But only two have made significant changes to their estate or inheritance taxes so far. Last year Iowa legislators decided to phase out the state’s inheritance tax by January 1, 2025. And this year Nebraska legislators made pro-taxpayer tweaks to its inheritance tax for deaths occurring on or after January 1, 2023.

Other jurisdictions have lessened the tax bite for dying in 2022—through previously scheduled changes or inflation adjustments. But some, without inflation adjustments, are still taxing estates at levels that haven’t budged for years, meaning more families are getting surprise death tax bills. In one of those states—Massachusetts—Democratic legislators are pushing for changes to spare more estates from the tax as part of a broader tax reform package this summer.

In all, 17 states and the District of Columbia levy estate and/or inheritance taxes. Maryland is the outlier that levies both. If you live in one of these states—or might retire to one—pay attention.

These taxes operate separately from the federal estate tax, which applies only to a couple thousand estates a year valued at over $12.06 million per person. (That number is set to drop roughly in half on January 1, 2026, when the Trump tax cuts that temporarily doubled the base exemption from $5 million to $10 million expire.) While few individuals need to plan around the federal estate tax, the state levies all kick in at much lower dollar levels, often making it a middle class problem.

Consider the current state estate tax in Massachusetts. The $1 million estate tax exemption hasn’t been adjusted for inflation since 2006, so it can hit the heirs of middle class folks who have seen their houses and retirement accounts appreciate.

“You can be real estate rich with a modest home, and your estate could be subject to this,” says Scott Cashman, a tax manager with Bowditch & Dewey in Worcester, Massachusetts. “It’s becoming more of an issue every year.” If the $1 million exemption amount set in 2006 had been adjusted for inflation, it would be closer to $1.5 million today.

Say a widow or widower died with a house worth $535,000, a $200,000 bank account, a $350,000 retirement account, and a $15,000 car, for a $1.1 million gross estate. Assuming $50,000 in deductions, the estate tax would be $20,500, he calculates.

(There’s no estate tax when assets are left to a spouse, but in this case the heirs are children.) If the house is worth $1 million, however, the tax would be $65,360— one third of the cash in the bank. Adding to the pain is what’s known as the cliff: Once the $1 million mark is crossed, the estate tax applies to everything over $40,000. “I don’t know if most legislators understand that,” he says.

A bill introduced by Democratic state senators would double the Massachusetts exemption amount to $2 million and only levy tax above that amount, removing the dreaded cliff. “We have such a surplus now, this is the time to do it,” says Cashman. “There’s broad-based support for reform.”

Inheritance taxes—levied in 6 states—can kick in at far lower levels, with the exemption and tax rate depending on the heir’s relationship to the deceased. In New Jersey, for example, if you leave your estate to a Class D beneficiary—including a nephew or non-civil-union partner—they’re taxed at 15% on assets up to $700,000 and 16% on assets above $700,000.

In Nebraska, lawmakers this year fell short of inheritance tax repeal but succeeded in chipping away at the state’s inheritance tax. The new law, effective Jan. 1, 2023, cuts the top tax rates (from 18% to 15%, for example) and increases the exemption amounts (from $10,000 to $25,000, for example). It also eliminates inheritance taxes for heirs under 22, and it makes unadopted step-relatives taxed at the lower rate for nearer family members and not the higher rate for unrelated heirs.

“Lawmakers wouldn’t agree to a general phase-down of the tax at this point that would apply to everyone, but they were willing to accept that if a younger person were to inherit property or cash (and we can use a lot more young residents and entrepreneurs in Nebraska) that it’s not in the state’s economic interest to take any of it away from them,” says Adam Weinberg, communications director with the Platte Institute, which is continuing its effort to repeal the inheritance tax in Nebraska.

Meanwhile, Connecticut, the least taxing of the estate tax states, is on schedule to increase its exemption to $9.1 million in 2022, and then to match the federal exemption for deaths on or after January 1, 2023. In an unusual nod designed to keep the richest taxpayers in the state, Connecticut has a $15 million cap on state estate and gift taxes (which represents the tax due on an estate of approximately $129 million).

Other states with 2022 changes: Washington, D.C. reduced its estate tax exemption amount to $4 million in 2021, but then adjusted that amount for inflation beginning this year, bringing the 2022 exemption amount to $4,254,800. Several states, which all have set their exemption amounts at different base levels, also see inflation adjustments for 2022. Maine’s is $6,010,000, while New York’s is $6,110,000. In Rhode Island, the 2022 exemption amount is $1,648,611.

I cover personal finance, with a focus on retirement planning, trusts and estates strategies, and taxwise charitable giving. I’ve written for Forbes since 1997.

Source: Where Not To Die In 2022: The Greediest Death Tax States

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Crypto Investors Get Ready for More Taxes But Clearer Rules

Sure, you might have to actually pay U.S. taxes on those crypto trades. But at least it will be easier to figure out how much you owe.

A new push by Congress to require crypto brokers to report transactions to the Internal Revenue Service could create some unwelcome tax bills but could clarify rules for traders and users of Bitcoin and other digital tokens, potentially strengthening the system in the long run, people in the industry say.

The new rules — a last-minute addition to the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure package now being considered by the U.S. Senate — would also force businesses to disclose trades of digital assets of more than $10,000. The provisions are designed to raise $28 billion.

The measures add to increased scrutiny the IRS has recently applied to traders of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other digital assets. The agency has promised it will issue new rules that clarify how those virtual currencies should be taxed.

People who trade digital currencies must pay income taxes on any gains, even if some crypto investors have been ignoring their tax obligations. But even for those who want to follow the law, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s owed.

Filing taxes on crypto trades can create huge headaches, especially for those who conduct multiple transactions each year. While traditional stock brokerages are already required to send detailed tax forms to clients, crypto exchanges aren’t. Even if firms wanted to help their clients file taxes, it’s not always clear how to do that under the current regulations.

In addition, tax obligations can pop up in surprising places. People who use digital currencies to pay for things — like, say, a Tesla, or a pizza — are supposed to pay taxes on any increase in value of the crypto they spend. It’s a key difference between using digital “currencies” and actual, fiat currencies such as the U.S. dollar to conduct commerce.

Andrew Johnson, a project manager at a large national bank, has invested tens of thousands in crypto and uses a dedicated service to figure out what he owes in taxes. He’s been using CoinTracker, which he learned about though a YouTube channel that he trusts.

“Most would benefit from a tracking service to help with taxes,” he said. “For me, I decided it was worth the cost to not have to manually track all the trades I did — which could take hours or days.”

Read more from Bloomberg Opinion: How Can I Lower My Taxes on Bitcoin?

Cryptocurrency exchanges and others in the industry have raised concerns that the U.S. Senate is rushing the rules into effect without consulting them first.

Some wondered whether the new rules and regulatory attention would encourage mainstream investors to join the space — or hurt the appeal of cryptocurrencies by killing its anything-goes ethos.

“Some portion of crypto investors may start to have second thoughts about the tax consequences,” said Michael Bailey, director of research at FBB Capital Partners. “It’s almost like crypto is a really fun party, but it’s getting late and a few people are starting to look at their watches as they think about the next morning.”

For years, the IRS has been warning taxpayers to report cryptocurrency transactions on their tax returns. More recently, the agency has made clear that fighting tax evasion through digital currencies is a top priority.

The IRS has started collecting vast amounts of data on blockchain transactions, has subpoenaed crypto exchanges and worked on coordinating enforcement with foreign governments. Last year, the IRS added a yes-or-no question to the front page of the 1040 income tax form asking whether filers had sold or exchanged virtual currencies.

The jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement only reaches so far, and crypto traders who prize secrecy could flee to offshore exchanges, or take other measures to avoid being spotted by the IRS. However, the U.S. has already shown it can crack down on foreign tax evasion by, for example, forcing banks in Switzerland and elsewhere to divulge details on American clients.

Even if parts of the crypto universe remain hidden, it may be difficult to move those assets onshore and turn them into legitimate wealth.

“If a U.S. taxpayer is into crypto for the ability to underreport income from sales or transfers, chances are someone in a chain somewhere may have to disclose it,” said Julio Jimenez, an attorney who is principal in the tax services group at Marks Paneth LLP.

All this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for law-abiding investors in digital assets if they end up with clearer rules and easier-to-understand annual statements from crypto firms.

“I think it will have a positive effect on the industry,” said Brett Cotler, an attorney at Seward and Kissel LLP in New York who specializes in blockchain and cryptocurrency. While exchanges and fintech firms that deal in digital currencies may have to spend money upgrading reporting and compliance systems, it will improve customer service, he said.

Johnson, the crypto trader, said he thinks the new rules will help legitimize the crypto ecosystem and foster international growth.

“While at its heart, crypto assets have been a means of moving value outside of government-controlled rails, I still understand the need for regulation in the crypto space in order for wider adoption to take place,” he said.

— With assistance by Natasha Abellard, and Laura Davison

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Source: Bitcoin (BTC): What Is Impact of Government Plan to Tax Crypto Trades? – Bloomberg

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