If you're a resident of Vermont and leave behind more than $5 million (for deaths occurring in 2021), your estate might have to pay Vermont estate tax. The Vermont estate tax is different from the federal estate tax, which is imposed on estates worth more than $11.7 million (for deaths in 2021). So even if your estate isn't large enough to owe federal estate tax, it might still owe Vermont estate tax.
But it's not just state residents who might owe Vermont estate tax. If you're a nonresident but own real estate or other tangible assets (a boat or plane, for example) located in Vermont, your estate might also need to file a Vermont estate tax return.
If the gross estate of a Vermont resident has a value of more than $5 million, the personal representative or executor of the estate must file a state estate tax return. Your gross estate will include just about all of the property you own at your death:
Co-owned property. If you own assets with someone else, generally only your share will be included in your estate. In other words, if you and your spouse own your house, half of its value would be included in your estate.
Nonprobate assets. Notably, your gross estate also includes non-probate assets. For example, the property you hold in a revocable living trust avoids probate, but it does not avoid estate taxes, and is counted in your gross estate.
Portability. The federal estate tax regime allows a surviving spouse to use the deceased spouse's unused portion of the exemption—a feature called "portability." However, Vermont's estate tax does not offer portability between spouses; each spouse has a separate exemption amount of $5 million.
Even if a Vermont estate tax return must be filed, it doesn't necessarily mean that the estate will owe estate tax. Your estate might be able to take certain deductions that lower the value of your estate below $5 million, in which case no estate tax will be due. These deductions include:
If your estate owes estate tax, how much will it actually owe? In Vermont, there is a flat estate tax rate of 16% on the portion of the taxable estate that exceeds $5 million. (Compare this to the current federal estate tax rate of 40%.)
If a return is required, it's due nine months after the date of death. The executor can request a six-month extension to file the return and pay the tax. This extension applies to the return itself, but not to the payment of the tax.
Your executor will likely have to hire professional help (an experienced lawyer or CPA) to prepare the Vermont estate tax return. The estate's funds can be used to pay for professional fees. Estate tax forms and instructions are available at the Vermont Department of Taxes.