Caution! The estate tax has a hole in it. Not to worry – a bit of legislative spackle is on the way.
The estate tax (with its current $3.5 million exemption) is just a few months away from expiring – albeit for one year. Then, if Congress fails to act, the estate tax will reappear in 2011 with a $1 million exemption. This odd scenario exists because of the 10-year expiration of the 2001 tax bill passed early in the Bush Administration.
A recent article in the publication The Hill quotes experts and Congressional staffers saying that Congress will enact a one-year “patch” which will extend through 2010 the current $3.5 million estate tax exemption and tax rate of 45 percent. The congressional staff members indicate that because Congress is busy dealing with healthcare reform, a long-term decision for the estate tax will have to wait until 2010.
Both the Obama administration and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus have proposed making the $3.5 exemption and 45 percent top rate permanent. However, Republicans and some conservative Democrats have suggested a $5 million exemption and a top rate of 35 percent. With such splits present not only between the parties but also with the Democratic majority, a one-year “spackle” approach might lead to the scenario described in the blog article by my co-blogger and law partner, Ted Simpson. Under this scenario, election-year gridlock and inaction by Congress could lead to the return of the $1 million exemption in 2011. Spackle may have its limits.
I welcome your comments and questions.