Understanding US Estate and Gift Taxation for Resident and Nonresident Aliens

Residing in the United States as a non-citizen, whether for the long-term, short-term, or indefinitely, can have significant estate and gift tax implications upon one’s demise. To avoid adverse tax consequences, careful planning is essential. Additionally, non-US citizens making lifetime transfers may also be subject to US gift tax. In this article, we will delve into the considerations surrounding US estate and gift taxation for resident and nonresident aliens, aiming to shed light on this complex topic and provide clarity to those who live, work, or own property in the United States.

  1. Residency and Domicile Considerations

When it comes to US estate and gift taxation, the distinction between resident and nonresident aliens is crucial. A resident alien is an individual who meets the substantial presence test, meaning they have been physically present in the US for a certain number of days over a specific period. Domicile, on the other hand, refers to the place an individual considers their permanent home.

Understanding your residency and domicile status is essential, as resident aliens are subject to US estate and gift taxes on their worldwide assets, while nonresident aliens are only subject to these taxes on their US-situs assets. Properly establishing your residency status can significantly impact your estate planning strategies.

  • US Estate and Gift Tax Considerations

For resident aliens, the US estate tax is levied on the total value of their worldwide assets at the time of death. This can include real estate, bank accounts, investments, business interests, and personal belongings. The tax rates can be substantial, making it crucial to plan ahead to mitigate potential tax burdens for your heirs.

For nonresident aliens, the scope of the US estate tax is narrower. It applies only to their US-situs assets, such as real estate located within the US, tangible personal property, and certain US securities. It’s essential to be aware of the value and nature of these US assets to determine potential tax liabilities.

Similarly, lifetime transfers of assets made by non-US citizens, whether resident or nonresident aliens, may be subject to US gift tax. The gift tax applies to the value of gifts made during one’s lifetime and is applicable to both US and non-US assets if the recipient is a US citizen or resident.

  • Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Facts

In addition to estate and gift taxes, there is also a generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax to consider. The GST tax is imposed when assets are transferred to beneficiaries who are more than one generation younger than the donor. This tax is in addition to the estate and gift taxes and can significantly impact wealth transfers over multiple generations.


As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, understanding the complexities of multinational tax rules is vital, especially for those planning to reside in the United States or invest in US property. For resident and nonresident aliens alike, careful consideration of US estate and gift tax implications is essential to safeguard your assets and minimize tax burdens on your heirs.