How many estates a year file federal estate tax returns? Consider the following. The number of deaths per year is estimated at approximately 2.6 million people. If the estate tax exclusion was left at the $1 million it was scheduled to be in 2011, approximately 105,000 estates would have filed a federal estate tax and less than half, or about 43,000, would have paid tax (the others presumably would have avoided tax because of the marital, charitable, or other deductions). If the exclusion were set to the $3.5 million it was in 2009 (and which most tax advisers thought the likely result for 2011-2012) somewhat under 16,000 estates would have filed returns and fewer than 10,000 would have paid estate tax. With the new $5 million exclusion, it is anticipated that under 9,000 estates will have to file a return and about 5,600 will owe an estate tax (Lackner, Vince, “Lackner's Federal Estate and Gift Tax: 2010 and 2011-12,” in Steve Leimberg's Estate Planning Email Newsletter, Archive Message No. 1734, December 17, 2010).
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