Proposed Estate Tax Legislation Contains some Generous Surprises

The new estate tax legislation proposed by Sen. Reid (D. NV) contains some pleasant surprises for wealthier Individuals.

First, as expected, it proposes to raise the estate tax exemption amount to $5 million per person with a maximum 35% estate tax rate for the next 2 years.

Additionally, the proposed legislation is retroactive to January 1, 2010, so that the estates of people who died in 2010 can select the new 2011 law, or the basis allocation law that has been in place during this year.

Most unexpected,the new law also proposes a 2 -year window where there is a $5 million gift tax exemption per person, with a gift tax rate of 35%. There would similarly be a $5 million Generation Skipping Tax exemption.This could give individuals a huge planning opportunity to transfer assets with great growth or income potential to the next-generation at little or no transfer tax cost.

And now we wait to see what happens next…

First Time Home Buyer Credit - Enough is Enough

To extend the credit or kill the credit, that is the question.  And will killing the credit take the real estate market along with it?

Much has been written, blogged, and talked about the first time home buyers credit - a very popular program that gave purchasers of new homes from January 1, 2009 to November 30, 2009 an $8500 credit.  

Now, of course the program is popular - those who qualify get a check from the IRS for $8500 - what could be unpopular about that?   According to Yahoo News ("Congress Scrutinizes Problems in Home Buyers Credit"), about 1.5 million applications have been made, and $10 Billion in tax revenue  ($10,000,000,000.00 - wow, that's a big number) has been refunded to homebuyers.

But what about all the people who don't qualify and are also getting $8500 checks. According to Yahoo News today:

  • Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration identified more than 19,000 people that filed 2008 tax returns or amended returns claiming the credit for homes they had not yet purchased. The program didn't start until 2009.  The cost - $139 million ($139,000,000.00 - always write out the zeros in those numbers the government throws around).
  • The Treasury Inspector General identified another $500 million ($500,000,000.00) in claims, by some 74,000 taxpayers, where there were indications of prior home ownership (mortgage interest deduction, real estate tax deductions, etc.).
  • The Treasury Inspector General also found 580 taxpayers under the age of 18 who claimed $4 million ($4,000,000.00) in first-time home buyer credit. One was 4 years old.

Look, I believe in home ownership and the American Dream.  But this program was created a year ago in an entirely different economy when total bank failure was not out of the question, and the real estate market was frozen by the credit crunch.  Irrespective of the outright fraud (which deserves jail time in my opinion - the IRS does have criminal powers to address people stealing from us, the taxpayers), enough is enough.  If you can't afford the house, save until you can.  People buying houses they couldn't afford is part of what got us into this mess in the first place.  There are enough great deals out there without tax dollars being added to the pot.  The Great Spend needs to end, and closing out the first time home buyer credit is a good start.

What do you think?