Friday, January 22, 2010

Is the Death Tax Really Dead?

The Federal Estate Tax was repealed effective January 1, 2010 because the Congress failed to pass legislation extending it. But is it really dead? The House of Representatives by a vote of 225 to 200 passed a bill in December 2009 reinstating the Estate Tax for 2010 at 45% with a $3.5 million exemption. The only problem is that the Senate opposed extending the tax even temporarily so they did nothing and it expired. There has been talk of reinstating the tax retroactively to January 1, 2010 but Representative Charles Rangel (Dem – NY) said that he is opposed to making the tax retroactive. It is going to be interesting to see if once Congress has addressed the health care issue what they are going to do about the estate tax.

Repealing the estate tax creates some very interesting moral dilemmas. With no estate tax to contend with are high-net-worth individuals now going to give more money to charity or to their children? It also created a very unique financial planning decision for 2009. Do we pull the plug on old Uncle Earl or do we wait until after January 1, 2010 and then unplug him? It is hard to think that these life and death decisions would be driven by taxes. But you know the old saying, “The only things for certain are death and taxes.”

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