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Senate Is Discussing Plan That Would Keep ‘Death Tax,’ Hatch Says

Updated on
  • Group that wants repeal cautions about poking ‘hornet nest’
  • House and Senate may split on core Republican tax issue

Senate tax writers are discussing a plan to keep the estate tax, but double the thresholds at which it applies, Senator Orrin Hatch said.

“We have been thinking about that,” said Hatch, the chairman of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee. The estate tax -- often labeled the “death tax” by its conservative opponents -- applies a 40 percent tax rate to estates worth more than $5.49 million for single individuals, or $10.98 million for couples.

Eliminating it has been a long-sought goal for Republicans. The framework that President Donald Trump and GOP congressional leaders released last month called for its repeal. The Senate’s new direction may set up a conflict with House tax writers, who plan to release text of their tax-overhaul bill on Wednesday.

“Chairman Hatch and members of the Senate Finance Committee are working to finalize a tax overhaul that will mitigate the adverse impact of the death tax,” said Julia Lawless, a spokeswoman for Hatch.

The Family Business Coalition, a group that favors repeal, would strongly oppose the plan Hatch described, said Palmer Schoening, its chairman.

“It would be a tone-deaf move for Senator Hatch to put Republicans in the position of defending a 40% tax on death,” Schoening said. “There are other levers to pull for revenue, the top individual rate being one.”

Schoening said the group will be watching for how the estate tax fares in the House bill Wednesday. “If leadership pokes that hornet nest for revenue, it will be a huge miscalculation.”

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee have been searching for ways to raise revenue to offset the deep business and individual tax-rate cuts they want.

In the Senate, at least two other Republicans -- Susan Collins of Maine and Mike Rounds of South Dakota -- have said they don’t favor repeal. Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska, said Tuesday that she supports repeal, but wouldn’t rule out raising the threshold instead.

“We’ll see what we come up with,” she said.

— With assistance by Allyson Versprille

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