While the state of California does not have a state-specific estate or gift tax, federal taxes still apply to the estates of California residents. People often get estate and gift taxes confused.
How are the federal estate and gift taxes different?
What is different about the federal estate and gift tax?
The federal estate and gift taxes share some similarities, but there are also differences. The estate tax applies to transfers of property that occur at death. The gift tax applies to transfers of property made while a person is alive.
Who pays estate and gift taxes?
Not very many people pay estate or gift taxes. In an average year, less than 0.5% of all estates must file a tax return and fewer than half of the estates that file owe any estate taxes. Similarly, fewer than 1% of all gift tax returns filed each year result in a gift tax payment.
Currently, only estates that exceed $11.7 million in value must file a federal tax return. The federal government taxes the value of these estates that exceeds the $11.7 million exemption at a rate of 40%. Gifts are only taxed when the amount gifted exceeds $15,000 in a single year. The gift tax is currently the same rate as the estate tax. The current exemption amount expires at the end of 2025.
In general, only high-value estates must pay estate taxes. However, it is wise to be aware of how taxes may impact distributing your assets before or after your death.