House panel votes to repeal federal estate tax that hits less than 1 percent of inheritances

A divided House panel has passed a bill that would repeal the federal estate tax.

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Republicans say abolishing the tax would help farmers and small business owners keep their businesses in the family. Democrats say it would help only the very wealthy.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 22-10 Wednesday to pass the bill, sending it to the full House.

Few estates pay the 40 percent tax because there are large exemptions. For individuals, estates as large as $5.4 million are exempt. Married couples can exempt up to $10.9 million.

The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation says less than 1 percent of estates pay the tax.

The committee says repealing the tax would add $269 billion to the federal budget deficit over the next decade.