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Estate Tax Repeal Fails Again; GOP Scrambles for Other Options

  • July 21st, 2006

With no publicity or fanfare, on the night of July 20 Senate Republicans made another failed attempt to bring total repeal of the estate tax to a vote. The vote was 57-41, short of the 60 votes needed to break a Democratic filibuster.

There are still reports that the GOP Senate leadership is attempting to insert a significant rollback of the estate tax into a bill overhauling pension laws, which is now in conference committee.

The effort is meeting strong resistance from fellow Republicans negotiating the pension bill, such as Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA). "We're getting some pressure from leadership to maybe put it in," Grassley said. "I think it is a gamble to put it in and I'm going to advise against it."

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who is also negotiating the pension bill, took an even dimmer view. "Estate tax is out," Baucus said. "It's not going to be in. It's not even being discussed."

Republicans aren't the only ones seeking to tie a measure cutting the estate tax to other legislation. Some Democrats want to try the novel approach of linking a tax break for the richest Americans with an increase in the wage for the poorest. Officials of the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting say they are hearing talk of efforts to combine a provision increasing the minimum wage with S. 3626, which was introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in June. S. 3626 would establish an estate tax exemption of $5 million per individual or $10 million per couple, along with a top estate tax rate of 35 percent.

But what the Republican administration hasn't yet been able to achieve legislatively it may be able to realize in other ways. According to the June 23, 2006, New York Times, the federal government is eliminating the jobs of nearly half of the lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service who audit tax returns of some of the wealthiest Americans, specifically those who are subject to gift and estate taxes. Sharyn Phillips, a veteran I.R.S. estate tax lawyer, called the cuts a 'back-door way for the Bush administration to achieve what it cannot get from Congress, which is repeal of the estate tax.' Click here for more.

President Bush used the first address to the NAACP of his presidency to promote estate tax repeal. Bush maintained that "the death tax will prevent future African-American entrepreneurs from being able to pass their assets from one generation to the next." According to the Center for American Progress, of the 38 million African-Americans in the United States, just 59 will pay the estate tax this year, and that number will drop to 33 in 2009.

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Daniel Steven

Daniel N. Steven, LLC
Rockville, MD

Jean Ball

Hale Ball Carlson Baumgartner Murphy PLC
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Samantha Fredieu

Hale Ball Carlson Baumgartner Murphy PLC
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Last Modified: 07/21/2006

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