Congress passes bill to repeal state tax, would affect fewer than 1 percent of estates

The House has passed a bill that would repeal the federal tax on estates.

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The tax is a politically volatile issue even though it affects very few inheritances.

Republicans call it the "death tax." They say it prevents small business owners from passing businesses on to their heirs. Democrats say repealing the tax is a giveaway to the rich.

The vote was 240-179.

The White House threatened to veto the bill because it would add $269 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade.

The federal tax rate on estates is 40 percent, but big exemptions limit the share of estates that pay it to fewer than 1 percent.

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This year, the exemption is $5.43 million for a single person. Married couples can exempt up to $10.9 million.