Senator outlines hopes for upcoming lame-duck session
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Unless Congress acts, the federal estate tax will return to much higher 2001 rates at the end of the year.
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said he would like to see the tax eliminated completely, but he hasn't been able to make that happen.
"We've been trying for the past 10 years," he said.
In 2001 Congress voted to gradually raise exemptions and reduce estate tax rates. The tax was eliminated entirely in 2010. When that legislation expires at the end of the year, estates valued at more than $1 million will be taxed at 55 percent.
Opponents of the estate tax say they need 60 votes in the Senate to defeat its supporters.
Crapo supports legislation that would make a repeal of the estate tax permanent, but he also supports a compromise that would raise the $1 million per person exclusion to $5 million.
"The majority party does not want the compromise," he said.
The estate tax cut was part of a bigger package of tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003, which included lower income tax rates. The entire package sunsets Dec. 31, returning to the previously higher rates on Jan. 1 if Congress does nothing.
He and other elected officials will push for a vote on extending tax relief, he said.
"The president said he wants to extend a lot of that relief. (But) he has not said his intentions on the estate tax," Crapo said.
Crapo said he'll work on building momentum to maintain the lower tax rates in the next Congress if a compromise isn't reached in the lame-duck session following the election.
Idaho Farm Bureau has long supported an end to the estate tax.
"The media claims only the wealthy pay estate taxes, but farmers are land rich and cash poor. (Relatives) are forced to sell the farm out of the family to pay taxes," said Rick Keller, executive vice president and CEO. "It's the ma and pa farmers and ranchers that get hurt."
Farmers pay taxes on their operations all their lives and then give it all back to the government in estate taxes, said Frank Priestly, Idaho Farm Bureau president.
"When you're building that farm, you assume a family member will take over," he said.