Everyone runs into death and taxes. New Jerseyans trundle on toward an afterlife in tax hell.
“I can afford to retire here,” said Susan Barbey, a 60- year-old resident of Ridgewood, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from Manhattan. “I can’t afford to die here.”
No other U.S. state reaches as deeply into the pockets of the dearly departed and their heirs, a ritual good for $755 million in New Jersey’s coming fiscal year. Though Governor Chris Christie says he wants inheritance and estate taxes gone, he’s fallen too short of a promised fiscal resurgence to do so.
As Christie considers a 2016 presidential run, he may be outshined by fellow Republican governors and potential challengers John Kasich of Ohio, Mike Pence of Indiana and Terry Branstad of Iowa, who all have ended such levies. Even Democratic-led Maryland, the only other state with both taxes, raised an exemption last year.
Christie’s advisors recommended repealing the post-mortem whammy when he took office in 2010. Even though he hasn’t, the governor has made it fodder for audiences as he tries to win over Republicans in early-primary caucus states including Iowa and New Hampshire.
“We tax it when you invest it, and then we tax it when you die, and then in some states like mine, we tax your heirs who take it,” Christie said March 7 at the Ag Summit in Des Moines. “It’s crazy, and it’s not good for families, and it’s not good for our economy.”
A repeal of the federal estate tax, which kicks in at $5.4 million and takes as much as 40 percent, was part of the Republican platform in the 2012 presidential election. Pence and Kasich got it done on the state level for 2013, and Branstad, the next year.
Since the 18-month recession ended in 2009, at least 11 states, six led by Republicans, have eliminated or lessened such taxes.
New Jersey claims a maximum 16 percent of estates valued above $675,000. The state also taxes inheritances at a top rate of 16 percent.