Klenk Law

Is there any inheritance tax on real estate transfers in Philadelphia?

Posted on Fri Jun 19, 2015, on Pennsylvania

From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My mother transferred her Philadelphia County home to me two years ago. She recently died. I am going to sell the house soon, but do I have to pay PennsylvaniaInheritance Tax?

Not in your case. The Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax of 4.5% applies to transfers to children at death, and includes all gifts made within one year of the date of death. If the house was transferred properly into your name 2 years ago, it will not be subject to the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax.

That being said, it will also not receive a step-up in basis. When a person dies, the basis that the heir receives in inherited property is the date-of-death fair market value. Let’s look at an example with the math explained below. In this case, let’s say the house was worth $250,000 at her death. If she had died owning the house and gave it to you through her will, you would have paid a 4.5% Inheritance Tax on the whole amount. But when you sold the house at her death for $250,000 your basis would have been $250,000 and there would be no capital gains tax owed.

Because your mother gave you the house outright, two years prior, rather than leaving it to you in her will, you have Transfer Basis, meaning you have whatever basis she had in the house. If she paid $20,000 for the house, this would mean that if you sell the house for $250,000 you have to pay capital gains taxes on $230,000. In that case, you would have been better off just paying the 4.5% Inheritance Tax.

  1. Taxes if Transferred at Death
    • Value of House = 250k
    • Mom’s Basis = 20k
    • Tax Owed = 250,000 x 4.5% = $11,250
  2. Taxes if Transferred 2 Years Prior
    • Value of House = 250k
    • Mom’s Basis = 20k
    • Amount Subject to Capital Gains = 250,000 – 20,000 = $230,000
    • *Tax Owed (15%) = 230,000 x 15% = $34,500
    • **Tax Owed (20%) = 230,000 x 20% = $46,000

* Capital gains rate is dependent on regular income tax rate. For 2015, 15% is for those earning ordinary income from ($37,450 to $411,500 per year). 20% rate is for those with income over $413,200 per year. As you can see, transferring property prior to death creates a larger tax burden in this hypothetical case.

Our firm hears about many cases where families thought they could dodge state or local inheritance taxes by gifting property before an elder’s death. In cases like these, proper estate planning can take all potential taxes into account. If you have questions about Probate in Philadelphia County, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.

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