The Senate will take up the estate tax issue when it returns from its August recess.[@@]

Sen. Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, announced plans for action on the estate tax issue earlier this week on the Senate floor.

Frist said he would file a motion for cloture on H.R. 8, the Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2005, before the Senate recesses.

The cloture motion, which would eliminate the possibility of a filibuster by limiting the time for debate on the bill, would be voted on when the Senate reconvenes in September, with a vote on passage for the bill itself shortly thereafter.

“The death tax is a vicious tax imposed on America’s small businesses and families during a time of grieving and pain,” Frist said. “It forces families to give up things their loved ones worked an entire lifetime to build. Eliminating this tax is a matter of principle. We must care for America’s hardworking families by enabling them to retain their family’s assets without paying a price.”

The estate tax repeal passed in the House in April by a vote of 272 to 162, and Frist said he hoped the bill “will find a similar level of support here in the Senate.”

So far, however, Senate advocates of H.R. 8 have not yet found enough support to bring it up for a vote. Some senators on both sides of the aisle have concerns regarding the costs of a full repeal, estimated at $745 billion for the first 10 years. In addition, because of the temporary phase-out of the estate tax, Senate Democrats feel little pressure to act on the issue now.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who has been working to craft a compromise that would not completely repeal the estate tax, expressed disappointment that the Senate could not take up a full repeal before leaving for its break. He said he would introduce his compromise proposal if a full, permanent repeal could not gain enough support for passage.

Supporters of the compromise package say it will offer relief without imposing overly burdensome costs. Roger Sutton, president of the Association for Advanced Life Underwriting, Falls Church, Va., said the group supports a reform package with an exemption level of $2.5 million per person and a top rate of 45%.

“This will eliminate the tax for 99.8% of decedents, while reducing the burden for the remaining few and enabling them to plan their estates with certainty,” Sutton says.

The AALU has “reached out vigorously” to swing senators and will continue to press the issue during the break, Sutton adds.

“With a vote expected in September, this battle is very tight and is AALU’s top issues priority,” Sutton says.