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McCain & Obama’s Estate Tax Plans

From Wall Street Journal: Stayin’ Alive: How to Cheat The Estate Tax, by Tom Herman:

The Obama Plan. Sen. Obama proposes a $3.5 million exclusion in 2009 and thereafter, with a top rate at 45%. His plan will “fully repeal the estate tax for 99.7% of households,” says Jason Furman, Sen. Obama’s economic policy director. “He would add certainty and stability to the tax code by making the 2009 estate tax parameters permanent, exempting estates of up to $7 million for a married couple,” Mr. Furman says. The Obama plan “retains the estate tax for the top 0.3% of estates in order to restore fairness to the tax system, helping to pay for a tax cut for 95% of workers and their families.”

The McCain Plan. Sen. McCain proposes raising the exclusion to $5 million per person and cutting the top federal estate-tax rate to 15%, says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the senator’s senior policy adviser and a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. This plan “should go into place ASAP after he is elected,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin says. “If the political climate makes it next to impossible to achieve full repeal, then Congress should look towards a compromise,” says Mr. Holtz-Eakin, referring to President Bush’s unsuccessful efforts to kill the estate tax permanently. He calls Sen. McCain’s plan “a compromise that holds the potential for breaking the logjam and providing some much-needed certainty.” Cutting the tax rate to 15% “would link the death tax with the current capital-gains tax rate,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin says. “By doing so, Americans will not be forced to pay more in death than they would if they had sold property prior to their death.” He also says that a $5 million exclusion “is generally thought by many to be the appropriate size to help small-business owners avoid cash-flow difficulties” upon the death of a family member.