Republican congressional leaders have included the “death tax,” private Social Security accounts, health savings accounts and long term care insurance on their priority list for the new term.[@@]

Senate Majority Leader William Frist, R-Tenn., released the legislative priority list here Monday.

The authors of the list emphasize broad goals rather than policy details.

The authors of the list give no information, for example, about how congressional leaders want to pay for permanent elimination of estate taxes or how they want to structure the proposed private Social Security accounts.

But the authors mount a vigorous attack on the idea of letting estate taxes return in 2011, when provisions of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 that would phase out the estate tax expire.

“The death tax is fundamentally unfair; it discourages hard work, entrepreneurship and savings, while rewarding consumption,” according to the authors of the priority list. “Congress must permanently repeal the death tax. Without a permanent repeal, current law imposes confiscatory tax rates and tremendous planning costs on families, especially those owning a small business?. Making death tax repeal permanent will eliminate the unjust and burdensome effects of this tax.”

The authors of the list talk about the permanent repeal of the tax on stock dividends, but they do not say whether Republican leaders want to expand the dividend tax repeal to include a provision providing a pass-through for dividends paid into variable annuities.

One item on the list calls for Congress to provide an above-the-line tax deduction for the purchase of high-deductible health plans and to provide additional support for low-income people and college graduates who want to buy health coverage.

Another item on the priority list would provide more support for family caregivers and an above-the-line tax deduction for individual purchasers of long term care insurance.