Congress Approves Resolution Fixing Estate Exemption at $3.5M

May 23, 2007

The House and Senate have approved a $2.9 trillion budget resolution that would keep the estate tax at where it will be in 2009 under the current law. This means that the per-person estate tax exemption would be $3.5 million ($7 million for a married couple) and the top tax rate would be 45 percent.

Congress’s vote for the nonbinding budget blueprint sets guidelines for it to follow when writing tax and spending legislation later this year. The House passed the measure by a 214-209 vote without a single Republican voting for it. The Senate vote was 52-40 in favor, with Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine joining Democrats in voting yes. The budget doesn’t have the force of law and any changes to the estate tax would have to be made through subsequent legislation, but it is a clear sign of congressional sentiment.

The estate tax is set to expire in 2010, followed in 2011 by a return to 2001 levels, with an individual exemption of $1 million and a top tax rate of 55 percent. In the last Congress, Senate Republicans fell four votes short of a measure that would have increased the estate tax exemption to the first $5 million of an individual’s estate and would have lowered the top estate tax rate to 35 percent.