Bernie Sanders’ Tax Bill Proposes Major Reductions to Tax-Free Estate Planning

March 27, 2021

Senator Bernie Sanders released his proposed estate and gift tax reform legislation (called the “For the 99.5 Percent Act”) on Thursday, March 25, and its provisions, if enacted, will have a significant impact on estate planning for not only the very wealthy but also for those in the middle class. The bill is only 18 pages long, but its sweep is considerable. Among its provisions, the current lifetime exemption from estate tax for each individual of $11,700,000 (adjusted for inflation) would be pulled down to $3,500,000 (not adjusted for inflation) and gift-tax-free lifetime giving would be capped at $1,000,000 (again, not adjusted for inflation). Under the Act, the federal estate tax rate would have a graduated raise from 45% to 65% (currently, the maximum rate is 40%). Furthermore, many estate planning techniques currently used would be either restricted or not even possible after the effective date of the Act, slated for January 1, 2022.