Is this the week Congress establishes certainty in the estate tax law? Probably not but talks are ongoing.
According to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, Committee members this week are continuing to discuss how to avoid the one-year elimination of the estate tax. Under current law, there would be no estate tax in 2010 but in 2011 the estate tax would return and cover estates exceeding $1 million at maximum tax rates of 55%. Currently, there is a $3.5 million exemption amount. For married taxpayers who do the proper planning, they can double the exemption amounts ($2 million in 2011 and $7 million in 2009).
It is difficult to plan not knowing whether the estate tax exemption will be extended at the $3.5 million level; whether it goes away temporarily or permanently; whether the exemption is reduced to $1 million; or an entirely unknown alternative. Rangel was quoted last week by the Publisher, BNA, that he favors a one-year extension of the $3.5 million amount rather than a "permanent" solution. President Obama has said he believes $3.5 million is the appropriate amount. On the other hand, Republicans still believe that a greater exemption amount and a lower estate tax rate is appropriate.
My prediction is that Congress will, as Rangel said, extend the $3.5 million exemption for one year, meaning we will have the same uncertainty for at least one more year. The problem would then again have to be addressed 2010. We will know soon.