Washington’s Estate Tax: Revenue for Higher Education and Early Learning

Issue Brief | February 24, 2010 | By John Burbank, John Burbank

Executive Summary

Washington has had an inheritance or estate tax since 1901. The United States has had an estate tax in place since 1916. Initiative 920, which would have repealed Washington’s estate tax in November 2006, was resoundingly defeated by the people, 62% to 38%. Our estate tax raises over $100 million annually, on average.

This revenue is dedicated to the Education Legacy Trust Fund, which finances lower class sizes in public schools, academic help for struggling students, additional enrollments in higher education, and financial aid for low and moderate income students in higher education.  Washington’s state estate tax exempts estates of less than $2 million and all family farms. Married couples with $4 million or more in assets can completely avoid the tax with minimal planning.  About 300 estates per year in Washington pay taxes out of 45,000 deaths – less than two-thirds of 1%.


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