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'Death Tax' Divide

That would get them completely off the hook, so the tax rate wouldn't matter.

By contrast, repeal with a carryover basis would subject their heirs both to the problems of figuring out the basis -- what do you suppose Dad paid for the shares he owned in that small business that was bought out by that larger business in which we now own lots of shares following the six stock splits? -- and to potential capital gains taxes when they sell inherited assets.

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A modest exemption with a low tax rate and stepped-up basis might be easier to deal with, but it would mean taxes for less-wealthy families who would escape them under a big exemption.

Looking at it that way, the interests of small-business owners, farmers and two-lawyer couples in McLean are not exactly aligned with those of the Mars candymaking family and others at that level.

Some pension plans got a bit of relief from the Internal Revenue Service last week in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that had alarmed them.

Many multi-employer plans require that benefit payments be suspended for retirees who go back to work in the same or similar occupations, which seems reasonable, but on occasion some have expanded their prohibited list and cut off workers in such jobs even though the jobs had been okay when the retirees took them.

Federal law prohibits that, the high court ruled last summer, but it added at the time that it didn't intend to endanger the tax-exempt status of plans that had done this. Last week, the IRS said that if plans correct their rules and pay benefits retroactive to last June, they will be safe.

Tax wonks and computer geeks, the IRS wants you. The agency is looking to fill seven vacancies on its Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee.

ETAAC, a 14-member panel, provides a forum for public input on issues that arise as the IRS moves toward paperless filing of tax returns. "By applying for membership in ETAAC, you could serve on this important committee," said Bert DuMars, IRS Electronic Tax Administration director.

ETAAC members are appointed by the Treasury secretary and serve a three-year term.

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