What You Need to Know
- The CBO says the most complete numbers it has are for 2016.
- About 2.7 million people died in 2016.
- Only 5,500 estates paid estate taxes, and only 2,000 taxpayers paid gift taxes.
Few Americans pay estate taxes, and estates valued at $50 million or more accounted for 42% of the assets reported by taxable U.S. estates in 2018.
Analysts at the Congressional Budget Office have included those figures in a new guide to understanding federal estate and gift taxes.
Why the CBO Guide Matters
The CBO guide may be critical to shaping U.S. tax policy, because some lawmakers, and congressional aides, will go into budget and tax policy debates knowing little about estate taxes.
For some policymakers, the CBO guide to gift taxes may be the only neutral explanation of how gift taxes work that those policymakers ever see.
For financial professionals, the guide may be a helpful source of copyright-free estate tax and and gift tax data.
The CBO analysts emphasize that the impact of estate and gift taxes is narrow.
They note that the latest complete figures they have come from 2016, before changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 took effect.
In 2016, only about 13,000 of the people who died had to file estate tax returns.
Only 5,500 estates owed estate taxes. CBO analysts estimate that only about 2,800 estates will pay estate taxes this year.
About 236,000 taxpayers filed gift tax returns in 2018, and only 2,000 of those filers owed gift taxes, according to the analysts.
The analysts include a table showing that financial assets and real estate account for more than 80% of the value of the taxable estates.
Only about 10% of the value is related to businesses that people who have died want to pass down to heirs.