Estate Tax Issues

Matthew Hansen reported on Friday at the Omaha World-Herald Online that, “The Nebraskans who walk into Andrew Loudon’s office tend to be graying at the temples, sober about both death and taxes and sure of one thing: Their loved ones will be paying the federal estate tax, often known as the ‘death tax,’ after they go to that great Tax-Free Zone in the Sky.

“Those same Nebraskans walk out of Loudon’s office startled, because the longtime Omaha and Lincoln trusts and estates attorney has just informed them that they are dead wrong.

“They won’t be paying the ‘death tax.’ They won’t be paying it for a simple reason: Hardly anyone does.”

Mr. Hansen indicated that, “There are legitimate reasons to want to kill the estate tax, said experts I talked to. It’s not particularly efficient, because there are so many ways to avoid it, and some also perceive it as discouraging investment.

“There are also legitimate reasons to keep it: It annually adds nearly $20 billion to government coffers. It does so without taxing about 99.8 percent of Americans.”

The World-Herald article stated that, “Want to be less freaked out by the federal estate tax?

Last year a grand total of 97 Nebraskans paid it. Ninety-seven.”

And, Mr. Hansen added that, “Loopholes like pre-death gifts to children, trusts and charitable giving as well as smart estate planning end up allowing all but the very wealthiest among us to dodge the death tax.

“It wasn’t always this way, the experts said. In fact, your average Nebraska farm family did, once upon a time, have legitimate reason to be fearful.

“In 2001 you had to pay the federal estate tax if you had $675,000 in assets. That’s an easy threshold to reach if you own several hundred acres of good Nebraska farmland, and it’s easy to see how the resulting tax bill could force a medium-size family farm to sell land or cause heartburn for the next generation of a family-run business.

“But after the Bush-era tax cuts and several other changes, it looks like very few Nebraska farm families will actually pay any federal estate tax in 2017.”

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