The Disappearing Estate Tax

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By Eva Lang - Last week I was at the Heckerling Tax Institute in Orlando where 3,000 estate tax attorneys gather annually to learn about current developments. Heckerling organizers are planning a conference for 2010 but will they need one? The estate tax will disappear completely in 2010 but will return in 2011.

The conventional wisdom is that Congress will take no action on the estate tax until after the presidential elections. However that is not stopping some notable people from speaking out on the topic.

During recent hearings of the Senate Committee on Finance , Chairman Max Baucus stated the obvious when he said that the “estate tax is complicated and intimidating. It needs serious reform.” But he went on to point out that while there were 2.5 million deaths in the U.S. in 2004 only 19,300 estates paid tax. Senator Baucus knows what was plain to anyone at Heckerling - “Estates can eliminate the tax burden with a myriad of tax provisions.” Still Senator Baucus called for repeal.

Warren Buffet, who no doubt has his own army of estate tax planning attorneys, also spoke at the Finance committee hearings where he proposed that the estate tax be reformed to have less impact on smaller estates but tax larger estates more in order to raise the same amount of money. He suggested an exemption from the estate tax of about $4 million indexed for-inflation.

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