2015 State Death Tax Exemption and Top Tax Rate Chart

State Estate Tax and Inheritance Tax Overview for 2015

••• Sue Clark

As of January 1, 2015, 19 states and the District of Columbia will collect a state death tax. Below is a chart that shows the states that will collect a state death tax along with the 2015 exemption and top death tax rate.  To view the state exemptions for prior years, refer to the State Estate Tax and Exemption Chart.

Estate Taxes vs. Inheritance Taxes

While it may just seem to be semantics, there is a real difference between an estate tax and an inheritance tax:

  • An estate tax is charged against the entire estate regardless of who inherits what.
  • An inheritance tax is only charged against the shares of certain beneficiaries who inherit an estate.

In fact, the distinction between these two taxes becomes very relevant in Maryland and New Jersey, which collect both. In Tennessee, the state death tax is referred to an "inheritance tax" in the state statutes, but it really is an estate tax since it's calculated based on the entire value of the estate, not on who inherits the estate.

Summary of Changes to State Estate Tax and Inheritance Tax Laws

Below is a summary of the changes that took effect with regard to state death tax laws over the past few years.

  1. Delaware enacted a state estate tax which was only supposed to be effective for deaths occurring between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2013. Nonetheless, in the spring of 2013, the Delaware legislature acted to eliminate the sunset of the tax.
  2. Two states saw their state estate tax disappear on January 1, 2010, due to state legislative action: Kansas and Oklahoma.
  3. On June 27, 2011, S.L. 2011-330 was signed into law by North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue. This law clarified that the North Carolina estate tax did not apply to the estates of decedents who died in 2010 but did apply to the estates of decedents dying on or after January 1, 2011.  The 2011 exemption was $5,000,000, which was to be indexed for inflation in 2012 and later years. Nonetheless, in July 2013 North Carolina retroactively repealed its state estate tax back to January 1, 2013.
  4. Illinois saw its estate tax disappear on January 1, 2010, due to a repeal of the federal estate tax, and despite the retroactive reinstatement of the federal estate tax, Illinois' tax did not come back automatically. Nonetheless, the Illinois legislature acted quickly at the beginning of 2011 to reinstate the Illinois estate tax for the 2011 tax year with a $2,000,000 exemption. However, in December 2011 the Illinois legislature acted to increase the exemption to $3,500,000 in 2012 and $4,000,000 in 2013 and future years.
  5. Hawaii brought back its state estate tax effective May 1, 2010. In May 2012, Hawaii tweaked its estate tax laws to provide that the Hawaii estate tax exemption will be tied to the federal estate tax exemption for decedents dying after January 25, 2012.  Hawaii is also the only state that currently recognizes portability of its exemption between married couples.
  6. In 2010, Rhode Island increased its estate tax exemption to $850,000 for deaths occurring that year and then the exemption was adjusted for inflation for deaths occurring on or after January 1, 2011.  Then, in June 2014, Rhode Island acted to increased its estate tax exemption to $1,500,000 for deaths occurring on or after January 1, 2015, and the exemption will continue to be adjusted annually for inflation in future years.
  7. Vermont's estate tax exemption was increased to $2,750,000 effective January 1, 2011.
  8. On May 4, 2011, the Connecticut estate tax exemption was retroactively decreased from $3,500,000 down to $2,000,000 for deaths occurring on or after January 1, 2011.
  9. On June 30, 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed the 2012 - 2013 budget into law, which eliminated the Ohio estate tax effective for deaths occurring on or after January 1, 2013.
  10. On January 1, 2012, the name of Oregon's death tax changed from an "inheritance tax" to an "estate tax."  In addition, while the Oregon estate tax exemption (formerly inheritance tax exemption) remains at $1,000,000 for 2012 and future years, the tax will only apply to the value of an estate in excess of $1,000,000 (under the prior law once an estate exceeded $1,000,000 the tax applied to the entire estate). The estate tax rates have also been changed for 2012 and future years so that the majority of estates valued between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 will pay slightly less in taxes and estates valued over $2,000,000 will pay slightly more in taxes. Note that on November 6, 2012, Oregon Ballot Measure 84, which would have repealed Oregon's estate tax by 2016, was defeated, so it doesn't appear that Oregon's estate tax will be repealed anytime soon.
  11. Effective January 1, 2013, Maine's estate tax exemption was increased to $2,000,000 (up from $1,000,000 in prior years) and the estate tax rate was lowered.
  12. In May 2012 Tennessee repealed its state gift tax retroactively to January 1, 2012. In addition, the Tennessee estate tax (referred to as an inheritance tax in the Tennessee statutes as mentioned above) will be completely phased out by 2016.
  13. In June 2013, Washington tweaked its state estate tax laws in several ways that will affect the estates of decedents who die on or after January 1, 2014. First, the $2,000,000 exemption will be indexed for inflation on an annual basis. Second, the estate tax rates for the top four brackets have increased by one percentage point. Finally, certain family-owned businesses will now receive an estate tax exemption of up to $2,500,000.
  14. In an unusual move, Minnesota enacted a state gift tax that went into effect on July 1, 2013. Aside from this, Minnesota tweaked its estate tax laws as they are applied to nonresidents who own real estate in Minnesota. The new legislation includes Minnesota property held in a pass-through entity such as an S corporation, a partnership (including a multi-member LLC taxed as a partnership), a single-member LLC or similar entity, or a trust in a nonresident's estate.  But in another unusual move, legislation was signed on March 21, 2014 which repealed the state gift tax retroactively.  In addition, the state estate tax exemption was retroactively increased to $1,200,000 for all 2014 deaths and the estate tax rate was tweaked so that the first dollars are taxed at a 9% rate which maxes out at 16%.  The estate tax exemption will then be increased in $200,000 increments until it reaches $2,000,000 by 2018.  The new law also allows married couples to use ABC Trust planning in order to defer the payment of all estate taxes until after the death of the second spouse.  Finally, the law taxing a nonresident decedent's interest in a pass-through entity was also modified to exclude certain publicly traded entities, but it still applies to entities taxed as partnerships or S corporations that own a closely held business, farm, or cabin.
  15. In May 2013, Indiana repealed its state inheritance tax retroactively back to January 1, 2013.
  16. On April 1, 2014, New York made significant changes to its estate tax laws by increasing the state estate exemption to $2,062,500. The exemption will then continue to increase on annually until it matches the federal estate tax exemption in 2019.  Refer to Overview of Changes to the New York Estate Tax Exemption Between 2014 and 2019 for a summary of the annual adjustment to the New York exemption that will be made in future years.
  17. On May 15, 2014, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed H.B. 739, Maryland Estate Tax - Unified Credit, into law.  This new law repeals and then re-enacts Maryland's estate tax so that the estate tax exemption will increase beginning in 2015 until it equals the federal estate tax exemption in 2019.  In addition, beginning in 2019 Maryland will recognize portability of its estate tax exemption between married couples.  Refer to Maryland Estate Tax Changes Go Into Effect in 2015 for more information about these changes.


*Also collects a state gift tax

**Referred to as an "inheritance tax" in state statutes, but it's really an estate tax

***Exemption is adjusted for inflation on an annual basis

****The exemption is $2,062,500 prior to April 1, 2015, and $3,125,000 effective April 1, 2015

2015 State Estate Tax and Inheritance Tax Chart

State Type of Death Tax 2015 Exemption 2015 Top Tax Rate
*Connecticut Estate Tax $2,000,000 12%
*** Delaware Estate Tax $5,430,000 16%
District of Columbia Estate Tax $1,000,000 16%
***Hawaii Estate Tax $5,430,000 16%
Illinois Estate Tax $4,000,000 16%
Iowa Inheritance Tax $25,000 15%
Kentucky Inheritance Tax Up to $1,000 16%
Maine Estate Tax $2,000,000 12%
Maryland Estate Tax, Inheritance Tax $1,500,000, $0 16%, 10%
Massachusetts Estate Tax $1,000,000 16%
Minnesota Estate Tax $1,400,000 16%
Nebraska Inheritance Tax Up to $40,000 18%
New Jersey Estate Tax, Inheritance Tax $675,000, Up to $25,000 16%, 16%
New York Estate Tax ****$2,062,500 or $3,125,000 16%
Oregon Estate Tax $1,000,000 16%
Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax $3,500 15%
*** Rhode Island Estate Tax $1,500,000 16%
**Tennessee Estate Tax $5,000,000 9.5%
Vermont Estate Tax $2,750,000 16%
***Washington Estate Tax $2,054,000 20%

The information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney.