The estate tax is dead

Friday, Dec. 18
Posted 8 a.m. EDT

The estate tax is dead. Long live the estate tax ... or not.

Despite agreement among most members of Congress that it would be better for the majority of taxpayers to have some sort of estate tax in place rather than let the law die as scheduled, the Senate apparently has decided to let the law die.

I am truly surprised. I worked on Capitol Hill for many years and have watched the shenanigans, er, workings of Congress for many more years. But usually when most lawmakers agree on an issue, they take care of it.

Not this time.

What are these guys and gals thinking?

Apparently they are thinking they can take care of this problem when they come back to D.C. in 2010. And they can. For all practical purposes, any estate tax ramifications won't show up until September since estate tax forms don't have to be filed until nine months after a person passes away.

"We'll clearly work to (bring back the estate tax) retroactively so that if the law is changed, however it's changed, or if it's extended next year, it will have retroactive application," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, after his attempt to extend the current law failed on Wednesday.

But will they?

If Congress couldn't get this law taken care of when they literally had years to do so, there is no guarantee they can do the job in the first nine months of 2010.

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