From this article in the New York Times yesterday:
Beginning next year, the federal estate tax exemption will increase to $3.5 million. This means that the tax would apply to only about 0.3 percent of people who die each year. Not exactly the average American.
However, as part of the 2009 budget resolution, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, has proposed to keep the tax at those levels, with annual adjustments for inflation. The proposal is expected to pass.
Under current law, the estate tax will be eliminated in 2010 for that year only. In 2011 the exemption would drop down to $1 million. Republican senators,, however, feel that Baucus’s proposal is not sufficient. After it passes, Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, is expected to propose further cutting the estate taxes.
The government would have to borrow to make up for the $200 billion tax loss, worsening the deficit and adding about $100 billion in interest to the nation’s tab.
The Kyl proposal needs a simple majority to pass. So if every Republican votes yes, just one Democrat would have to join them for the proposal to pass.
I personally feel that a $3.5 million exemption is quite generous, particularly given that married couples who do proper estate planning can pass double that amount to their heirs. If persons with estates over the exemption amount don't want to pay taxes, a good estate planning attorney can certainly help!