Estate Tax Debate May Reach Compromise

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Acknowledging that they may never be able to totally do away with the always-controversial “death tax,” Senate Republicans have been secretly considering a compromise. They are anxious to push the bill forward while they hold control of Congress and the White House.

With the federal budget deficit soaring and President Bush's economic policies increasingly coming into question, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has secretly proposed raising the estate tax exemption to $15 million for individuals and $30 million for couples, while lowering the tax rate on inherited assets above those amounts to 15 percent, the Washington Post reported.

Republicans have long sought to completely abolish the estate tax. In 2001 they pushed through a law to repeal the tax in 2010, but the provisions of that law allow it to be reinstated the following year when the legislation expires.

A lobbyist anonymously told the Post that if a Democrat is elected to the White House next year, Republicans lose the chance to ever significantly cut the estate tax. "In the ideal world, it would be great to get full repeal," said the lobbyist, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "But if Bush isn't reelected, we'll never get any more movement on the death tax."

The downfall of the economy is proving to be the trump card for those interested in compromising on the hot-button issue. "I think the writing is on the wall," Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), a repeal proponent who is working with Kyl on a compromise, told the Post. Support "is going the other direction, and it's going to continue going the other direction as long as the economic indicators and the debt that we're dealing with remain like they are. There's nothing in the foreseeable future that's going to change that."

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