Several times in the most recent quarter we were asked, and discussed in detail, if an inheritance is taxable? Because of this repeated subject we thought it appropriate to broach the subject here.
So is an inheritance taxable?
For the most part no. There are of course exceptions (certain states have silly inheritance laws, but these are slowly being repealed due to state resident desire). Under current tax law, upon death after tax investments receive a step up in basis, which means they are marked as the value of the deceased as fair value. This means that if an asset was purchased for just pennies decades ago, it’s new basis for the inheritor is the fair market value at the date of death.
As a side note for those thinking of gifting appreciated assets (to non charitable recipient) one might want to consider this step up in basis. If you gift a highly appreciated asset it will carry your basis and the recipient will then have Taxes upon sale. All things considered equal, upon death that same asset under current tax law will transfer to the recipient with little or no taxes.
Once the assets are transferred into the beneficiaries account, the interest, dividend and capital gain clock will begin and moving forward, taxes will be due on this amount as the beneficiary becomes the owner of the asset, but the initial transfer will not be taxable, a very fair tax situation.
Receiving an IRA as Inheritance? There are taxes, but not Immediately
Under current tax laws an IRA will pass to a spouse, child, sibling or other direct heir with no mandatory complete distribution necessary-there will be possible minimum distributions.
If a spouse is in the age range of RMD (Required Minimum Distributions) the receiving beneficiary spouse will pick up mandatory distributions based on his or her age. If a child is the recipient of an IRA the child’s age blended with the original decedent and will be computed to mandate a non-penalty but much smaller required minimum distribution even if the beneficiary is very young.
If the inheritor wanted to distribute the entire IRA, she/he has that option with no penalty, however this would bring full taxable income for the entire amount of the distribution, a decision that would need to be carefully considered before commencement.
So in summary, the immediate transfer of assets carries very little tax burden to the inheritor. Moving forward interest, dividends, future capital gains in after-tax accounts would be taxable, and in the case of an IRA the beneficiary, the RMD amount will be required and taxable, but in almost all cases these are the only taxes mandates.
Have a Great “No Inheritance Tax” Day!
John A. Kvale CFA, CFP