Do you want to live or die in New Jersey?

Several years ago after my dad died in New Jersey, my brother and I were shocked when we realized how much money we were going to have to pay to the state in inheritance and estate taxes. The percentage was huge, especially compared to almost any other state in the US. Evidently, we were not alone in being shocked by New Jersey’s tax rules.

According to a study recently commissioned by Charles Steindel, chief economist of the New Jersey Department of the Treasury (and former senior vice president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank), 25,000 people moved away from New Jersey between 2004 and 2009. Why? In 2004, the state’s highest income tax rate was raised from 6.37% to 8.97% for those making $500,000 or more, and in 2009 a one year 10.75% tax rate was assessed on those making $1 million or more.

In addition to such high income tax, New Jersey is one of only two states (Maryland is the other) with both a state estate tax and a state inheritance tax; this is a problem for those who would like to leave at least the majority of their wealth to their loved ones when they die.

Steindel also conducted a survey of subscribers to the state’s online newsletter Tax Notes, which keeps professionals such as financial advisers, accountants and attorneys up to date on changes in law, rules and court decisions governing tax matters. Subscribers include advisers to high-wealth clients.

More than half of the respondents said that clients had recently left or expressed interest in leaving the state. Respondents said the top three reasons that clients gave for leaving were state income taxes (85.4 percent), local property taxes (77 percent) and estate taxes (67 percent). The next two reasons most-often cited were retirement (47.6 percent) and housing costs (43.7 percent).

So if you live in New Jersey and you have any assets, consider moving to a more tax friendly, or non-taxing, state like Florida.

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