While many believe estate taxes only hamper the financial activity of very wealthy people, the truth is even middle class individuals can be subject to the burdens of state and federal estate taxes. For example, if you spent your whole life building a small business, the value of that asset can exceed the estate tax threshold easily by virtue of the real estate’s value alone.
For many years, New York’s estate tax lagged behind the federal threshold. Currently, the federal estate tax threshold is $5.49 million while New York’s state exemption is $5.25 million. New York’s inheritance tax exemption will continue to climb until 2019, at which point the amount will match whatever the federal threshold becomes. The change came about thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March 2014.
One key difference between New York and federal tax laws relates to what is commonly called the “tax cliff.” Under federal and many other state taxation laws, only the amount of the estate exceeding the tax threshold would be subject to tax. For example, if an individual left behind an estate worth $6 million, only the $501,000 exceeding the threshold would be subject to federal income tax.