Overview of Hawaii Estate Tax Laws in 2015

Understanding How Hawaii Estate Taxes Affect an Estate

If you live in Hawaii, then you live in one of a handful of states that still collect a local death tax. The estates of Hawaii residents, as well as the estates of nonresidents who own property located in Hawaii, are subject to a local death tax under the following guidelines.

NOTE: State and local laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

When Was an Estate Subject to the Hawaii Estate Tax in 2015?

Colorful sunset at Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
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In 2015, an estate of a resident of Hawaii, or a nonresident of Hawaii but U.S. resident or citizen, was taxable in Hawaii if the taxable estate (determined using IRS Form 706, Part 2, line 3a) was $5,430,000 or greater.

However, if the decedent was survived by a spouse and the spouse was allowed to claim an election for transfer, or "portability," of the deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption, then a Hawaii Estate Tax Return must have been filed to make the election. See more on portability below.

The estate of a nonresident of the U.S., not a U.S. citizen, was taxable if the taxable estate (determined using IRS Form 706-NA, Part II, line 1) was $60,000 or greater.

What Hawaii Estate Tax Forms Must Have Been Filed?

The personal representative or other fiduciary representing an estate that was subject to the Hawaii estate tax must have completed and filed the Hawaii Estate Tax Return, Form M-6.

Additional documents needed to be filed with the Hawaii Department of Taxation were as follows:

  • IRS Form 706 (for the year of death) completed through Part 2, line 12 or IRS Form 706-NA completed through Part II, line 8
  • All federal schedules with federal Forms 712, as required
  • Death certificate
  • Last Will and Testament
  • Applicable trusts
  • Power of appointment documents
  • A copy of another state’s death tax return or foreign death tax return, if the estate is subject to other death taxes
  • Any valuations or appraisals

For estates that were not required to file a Hawaii Estate Tax Return, the personal representative or person(s) in possession, control, or custody of the decedent's property must have filed a Request for Release, Form M-6A, with the Department of Taxation if the agent wished to obtain a release which indicated that the estate was free from taxes under chapter 236E, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

Were Transfers to a Surviving Spouse Taxable?

Outright transfers to a surviving spouse were not taxable.

For married couples who used AB Trust planning to reduce their federal estate tax bill, a Hawaii death tax was not due on the B Trust after the first spouse's death since the Hawaii exemption equaled the federal exemption.

Were Transfers to a Civil Union Partner Taxable?

On January 1, 2012, civil unions became recognized in Hawaii. Civil unions entered into in a jurisdiction other than Hawaii were also recognized, provided that the relationship met Hawaii’s eligibility requirements, have been entered into in accordance with the laws of the other jurisdiction, and could be documented.

Hawaii law provided that the Internal Revenue Code sections and provisions referred to in Hawaii’s estate and generation-skipping transfer tax laws that apply to a husband and wife, spouses, or person in a legal marital relationship would apply to partners in a civil union with the same force and effect as if they were “husband and wife”, “spouses”, or other terms that describe persons in a legal marital relationship.” Accordingly, references to “married”, “unmarried”, and “spouse” also means “in a civil union”, “not in a civil union”, and “civil union partner”, respectively.

Was Portability of the Hawaii Estate Tax Exemption Allowed Between Spouses?

Yes. However, portability applied only to deaths that occurred after January 25, 2012, of U.S. residents or U.S. citizens who were validly married on the date of death (including Hawaii civil unions or the equivalent) and to nonresidents of U.S., not U.S. citizens, where allowed by any applicable treaty obligation of the U.S.

What Was the Hawaii Estate Tax Rate?

The Hawaii estate tax rate started at 5% and topped out at 16%.

When Were the Hawaii Estate Tax Return and Tax Payment Due?

Form M-6 must have been filed, and any estate tax due must have been paid, within 9 months of the decedent's death. An extension of time to file Form M-6 did not extend the time to pay any tax due.

An extension to file Form M-6 was based on the federal extension to file the federal estate tax return. Hawaii did not have a separate extension form, but an automatic six-month extension to file Form M-6 would be granted if:

  • A copy of the IRS approved extension to file the federal estate tax return, IRS Form 4768, was attached to Form M-6; and
  • Form M-6 was filed by the due date specified by the IRS for filing the federal estate tax return.

Where Were the Hawaii Estate Tax Return Filed and Tax Payment Made?

All required forms and any payment due to could be mailed to:

Hawaii Department of Taxation
P.O. Box 259
Honolulu, Hawaii 96809-0259

Where Can I Find Additional Information About Hawaii Estate Taxes?

For more information about Hawaii estate taxes, refer to the Hawaii Department of Taxation's website.

You may call customer service at 808-587-4242 or toll-free at 1-800-222-3229; telephone for the Hearing Impaired at 808-587-1418 or toll-free at 1-800-887-8974; or send a fax to 808-587-1488.

You may also email the department at​ Taxpayer.Services@hawaii.gov.

Correspondence may be mailed to:

Taxpayer Services Branch
P.O. Box 259
Honolulu, HI 96809-0259

Does Hawaii Collect an Inheritance Tax?

No, Hawaii no longer collects an inheritance tax because it was replaced with a state estate tax in 1983.