The Association for Advanced Life Underwriting is welcoming the decision by Senate Majority Leader William Frist to delay debate on permanent estate tax repeal.[@@]

Frist, a Republican, originally had hoped to begin floor debate on repeal Tuesday, but he put off discussion of that effort indefinitely to give the Senate more time to address the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 is phasing out the estate tax, but the tax is supposed to snap back into action in 2011 unless a new law cancels the tax permanently. This year, an estate has to have a value of at least $1.5 million before federal estate taxes will kick in.

Many life insurers and life agents specialize in helping wealthy clients avoid estate taxes, and the AALU, Falls Church, Va., has argued in favor of increasing the exemption rather than repealing the tax altogether.

Now that Katrina has hit, “taking care of people at times like this is a national priority,” says David Stertzer, executive vice president of the AALU. “While we as individuals, businesses and industries are doing what we can, people look to government to help with such sweeping needs. We think it is appropriate that the U.S. Senate has rearranged its schedule to focus on how to help provide relief from the terrible impact of the hurricane and has postponed a vote on the estate tax issue.”

In the future, the AALU will continue to make its case as the estate tax issue comes up again, Stertzer says.

“At the appropriate time in the future when the Senate reexamines the estate tax issue, we will again present our views on responsible estate tax relief that can be permanent without impairing funding for other national priorities,” Stertzer says.