From Congress Daily
Estate Tax

Estate tax reform must pass Congress before it expires at the end of the year, even as the Senate Finance Committee expects to generate a light agenda for tax reforms, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s ranking member, told a March 25 tax and legislative policy seminar.

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, told reporters a day earlier that the estate tax is not on the committee’s agenda now. “We can’t ignore it, but it’s not on our agenda,” he said March 24. Rangel instead named health and climate control as priorities. He remained noncommittal when questioned about when the estate tax will be addressed.

Grassley also remained vague about a timeline when speaking with reporters after Baker & Hostetler’s annual event, which drew a number of members from the congressional tax-writing panels, including Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). Grassley predicted Congress would address the estate tax before its Dec. 31 expiration, and Finance would do so sometime before the August recess.

He said President Obama’s plans for a five-year freeze of the estate tax at 2009 levels might muster sufficient votes in the Senate if Republicans “stick together.” The same solidarity would allow Republicans to possibly increase the estate tax’s current $3.5 million exemption amount to $5 million or $6 million, and to lower its 45 percent maximum rate, he said.

Grassley hopes to see a complete repeal of the estate tax. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, told reporters he does not know prospects for the committee reporting out legislation reflecting the budget’s five-year freeze.

“Everybody’s of accord that the one-year freeze is a good idea,” he said after the March 25 seminar. “Where we go from there, I’m not sure. But … in the committee, there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about a five-year freeze. It’s expensive. It’s really expensive.”