Kyl: Time to act on estate tax


Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday said a process should be agreed to for dealing with the estate tax before the Senate takes up future legislation.

“Very soon we’re going to have a process on how estate tax reform is going to move forward,” he said, adding, “I will insist on an agreement on how to proceed, if we’re going to have unanimous consent on how to proceed with any of these subsequent bill. ”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said travel promotion legislation would be brought forward after his chamber completes action on the jobs bill. Legislation extending expiring tax breaks is also likely to come up later in the week. Kyl said either measure could be vehicles for consent on the estate tax.

“It’s time to get with it,” he said.

Specifics on the estate tax remain influx, but Kyl said it would likely be similar to an amendment he and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) presented during last year’s budget debate.  Their provision created a 35 percent tax on estates worth more than $10 million per couple.

“That will be pretty close, there’s going to be some tweaking,” he said.

Under budget rules, Kyl must offset a portion of his bill and he is reviewing option on that front.

“Some of them may be new,” he said, but did not offer specifics.

Well-placed sources say the senators might create a “toll charge” on charitable foundations that would sock Democratic heavyweights like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Kyl discounted the idea, but said nothing had been agreed to.

The estate tax is currently repealed and reinstating it raises constitutional issues.  Benefactors can claim the tax is unconstitutional since it was not in effect when the estate of their loved one was created.

Kyl opposes making the tax retroactive to avoid the constitutional question. He floated the idea of presenting taxpayers with a choice of either abiding by current estate tax law or complying with whatever level of tax is created later this year.

“One way, not necessarily the only way, would be to give them an option,” he said.  

Barring congressional action, the estate tax returns next year to pre-2001 levels by socking estates worth more than $1 million with a tax that tops out at 55 percent. This does not include the 5 percent surtax on wealth transfers ranging between $10 million and $17.18 million.

Senate leaders attempted to agree on a process for moving the estate tax during negotiations over jobs legislation created by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Reid scrapped their $85 billion proposal and instead moved a more targeted, $15 billion bill that killed any chance for an agreement on the estate tax being tied to jobs legislation.

“Reid scuttled it all when he went ahead with his bill,” Grassley told The Hill.