On January 7, 2010, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion by Stephen Moore, The New Year Brings Tax Chaos:At least 2010 is a good year to die.
Moore writes about the taxes that expired at the close of 2009. Here is what he had to say regarding the repeal of the federal estate tax:
But the biggest debacle is the estate tax. On Jan. 1 it fell to zero for the year, and then in 2011 it goes back up to 55%. Estate tax attorneys are full of stories of wealthy heirs with living wills that ask their dependents to take account of the estate tax when determining when to pull the plug on the life support system. Don't be surprised if death rates of wealthy Americans rises substantially this year.
Sen. Max Baucus has vowed to raise the estate tax back to between 35% and 55% this year, and to make that change retroactive to Jan. 1. But this will be of questionable constitutionality. Can Congress impose a new estate tax, say in April, on someone who was already dead and buried in February? Let's hope not.
He closes his article by pointing out a discrepancy between the way Congress acts and the way it wants people to act:
Congress's failure to settle the tax laws for 2010 is an unforgivable dereliction of duty. The federal government isn't so understanding when American citizens are late paying their taxes: The IRS imposes strict civil fines and even criminal penalties. We should hold Congress to the same standards.
For a similar notion, see WSJ: "congressional malpractice" leads rich to cling to life to beat tax man (12/29/09).