Overview of Federal Estate And Gift Tax Federal estate and gift taxes are really a single tax on the value of property transferred from one person to another. The gift tax applies to transfers during life and the estate tax to transfers on death. Estate and gift tax rates are high. Top rates have ranged between 35 percent and 55 percent in recent years. For 2016, the top tax rate is 40 percent. However, despite the high rates, very few gifts and estates are actually taxed because of generous exclusions and deductions.