On December 16, 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Democrats’ attempt to extend the Federal Estate Tax exemption of $3.5 million into 2010 has been blocked by the Republicans. Senator Max Baucus is quoted as saying, “We clearly will work to do this retroactively, so that when the law is changed, it will have retroactive application.” 

The Republicans believe that the repeal should be allowed to take effect as provided under current law, and Senator John Kyl (R, Arizona) stated, “The problem doesn’t have to exist. They’ll just leave the existing law alone and let the rate go to zero, where everyone wants it anyway.”

 Thus, as the law stands today, Federal Estate Tax will be

  • zero in 2010;
  • with certain exceptions the tax basis step-up will be repealed for 2010;
  • The estate tax exemption will return to $1,000,000 in 2011.

It is an interesting and continuing revelation about the extent of the massive gridlock in the current Congress when the Democrats could not even muster enough votes to pass a mere extension of the $3.5 million exemption for the first three months of 2010.


It remains to be seen whether or not enough votes can be mustered to make any estate tax changes in 2010. If the Senate could not pass an estate tax bill with a 60 vote majority, I am skeptical that it will get accomplished in 2010.