Experts predict that a compromise on the Bush-era tax cuts may involve a return of the estate tax. Without any action at all, the estate tax will go from the 2010 zero percent, to a 2011 top rate of 55% on estates over $1 million.
A new tax on multimillion-dollar estates may emerge as the final hurdle to a deal that preserves most or all of former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts, analysts said. Congress has unsuccessfully sought at least a half-dozen times to resolve the issue since 2000, including an abandoned effort last December to prevent the estate tax’s expiration.
“The history on the estate tax is every time there’s almost an agreement someone leaves the table in the belief they’ll get a better deal next time,” said Clinton Stretch, a managing principal at the Washington consulting firm Deloitte Tax LLP.
With Obama planning to meet with bipartisan congressional leaders at the White House tomorrow, three main factions have formed in the Senate, none of which has the 60 votes needed to advance an estate-tax proposal. One includes Republicans such as South Carolina’s Jim DeMint who favor permanent repeal. Another is led by Democrats including Majority Leader Harry Reid who support a top rate of 45 percent that would apply after a $3.5 million tax-free allowance.