Estate Tax Fix Remains Elusive Due to Revenue Concerns
In less than 6 months, federal estate taxes are scheduled to return with an exemption of $1 million and a maximum rate of 55%. Numerous bills have been submitted to provide relief from these taxes. Most of the bills would increase the exemption to $3.5 million or more and decrease the top rate to 45% or less.
These bills have not passed because they would significantly decrease tax revenues. The latest such failure was an amendment offered to a Jobs Bill by Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Apparently the Senate decided against combining a large tax decrease with a bill that proposes to increase spending by $33.9 billion.
A lot of Senators are hesitant to pass another large spending bill. Many of these same Senators believe that taxes, including estate taxes, should be reduced. In the enclosed LA Times article, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander explained why it is logical to support decreasing taxes while at the same time fighting increasing spending as follows: “If you’re going to spend more, you have to have a revenue source or you run up the debt.” Reducing taxes "reduces the amount of revenue we have to spend, and we should reduce spending by the same amount.”
What Lamar says by implication is that the national debt will increase if you reduce taxes without reducing spending. There appears to be a lot of support for reducing taxes. There does not appear to be a lot of support for spending less. It will be very difficult to solve the estate tax dilemna if the fix requires a commitment to decrease spending. I am counseling my clients to be prepared for the return of federal estate taxes in 2011 with the $1 million exemption and 55% top rate.