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Vote on Estate Tax Repeal Likely in Fall

  • July 29th, 2005

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has postponed a vote on repeal of the estate tax until September, but lawmakers are likely to take up measure shortly upon returning from their August recess.

The Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2005, which would repeal the estate tax permanently beginning in 2011, passed the House earlier this year by a 272-162 vote. However, Senate Republicans probably lack sufficient votes to block a Democratic filibuster of the measure, which its opponents have dubbed "The Paris Hilton Benefit Act."

The decision to delay the vote gives more time for compromise negotiations between Senate Finance Committee ranking minority member Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and Senate taxwriter Jon Kyl (R-AZ), according to Cowles Legal Systems.

Sen. Kyl has proposed a compromise that would make the estate tax rate equal to the capital gains rate, which is currently 15 percent, and exempt from taxation the first $3.5 million of an individual's estate ($7 million per couple), with the exemption amount indexed to inflation in years after 2010. (Under current law, the per person exemption amount is $1.5 million in 2005, rising to $3.5 million in 2009.) The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the Kyl proposal will cost the nation $595 billion between 2012 through 2021. Sen. Baucus has not yet presented an alternative proposal.

Repeal of the tax would mean that while the wealthiest Americans still cannot escape death, they will be able to avoid that other inevitability. The estate tax currently affects only the richest 1 percent among the deceased, those with inheritable estates worth more than $1.5 million. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that after taking account of deductions and loopholes, the estate tax currently skims less than 20 percent off the average taxable estate.

For more on estate taxation, click here.

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Last Modified: 07/29/2005

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