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Estate Tax Return Scorecard

The number of federal estate tax returns filed for all decedents fell "significantly" between 2001 and 2009, from 108,071 to 38,031, according to this summer's issue of the "Statistics of Income Bulletin" from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Why such a big drop? It happened primarily because of the rising exemption levels for estates (from $675,000 for 2001 deaths to $3.5 million for 2009 deaths), IRS economists Brian Raub and Joseph Newcomb write. The number of returns with an estate tax liability ("taxable returns") also fell significantly-from 51,736 in 2001 to 14,713 in 2009. But despite the decrease in returns filed, "the estate tax liability reported annually on taxable returns stayed within a relatively narrow range of $20.6 billion to $24.8 billion during this period," the economists point out. Let's hope those folks had lots of life insurance.

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