State-by-State Guide to Taxes on Retirees
Tool | December 2021

Kentucky State Tax Guide for Retirees

State tax rates and rules for income, sales, property, estate, and other taxes that impact retirees.


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The Bottom Line
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The Bluegrass State isn't exactly a thoroughbred when it comes to cutting taxes for retirees, but it isn't a plow horse, either. Kentucky exempts Social Security benefits from state income taxes, plus up to $31,110 per person of a wide variety of retirement income, including public and private pensions and annuities. Combined with it's 5% flat rate, the state's overall income tax burden on retirees is middle-of-the-road (although future tax rate cuts are possible).

A modest 6% sales tax is imposed at the state level, and localities can't add to it. Kentucky's median property tax rate is below the national average, too. All this adds up to a fairly "average" tax burden on seniors.

What's not to like? Kentucky's inheritance tax.

Income Tax Range

Kentucky has a flat income tax rate of 5%. Certain counties, cities and other local government entities (such as school boards) can levy an additional occupational license payroll tax on wages earned by employees working within their boundaries.

If certain revenue and budget conditions are met, the state rate will be reduced to 4.5% beginning in 2023. Further 0.5% reductions are possible in future years if the same conditions are met and the state legislature authorizes a reduction.

Taxation of Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits are not taxed by the state.

Tax Breaks for Other Retirement Income

Up to $31,110 of income from private, government, and military retirement plans (including IRAs and 401(k) plans) is exempt. However, government retirement income attributable to service credits earned before 1998 is fully exempt without limits.

Railroad Retirement benefits are also exempt.

Sales Tax

6% state levy. No local taxes.

Groceries: Exempt
Clothing: Taxable
Motor Vehicles: Exempt if 6% motor vehicle usage tax is paid
Prescription Drugs: Exempt

Real Property Taxes

For homeowners 65 and older, $40,500 of the assessed value of residential property is exempt from state taxes for 2021 and 2022.

Annual Car Taxes and Fees

An annual vehicle property tax based on the car's value is imposed. Additional local taxes may apply.

Estate and Inheritance Taxes

Kentucky has an inheritance tax, but the decedent's spouse, parents, children, grandchildren, and siblings are exempt. Nieces, nephews, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, aunts, uncles, and great-grandchildren are taxed at rates ranging from 4% to 16%, depending on the value of the property inherited (the first $1,000 of property is exempt). All other heirs are taxed at rates ranging from 6% to 16% (their exemption is only for the first $500 of property).