Imagine you are returning to the United States after traveling abroad. You have been randomly selected for a search at the border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). They request that you provide the passwords for both your work phone and work laptop. What do you do? As an attorney, you are likely to have privileged information on such devices. Regardless of whether you are a U.S. citizen or not, CBP can make your life difficult if you refuse. If you are a citizen or legal permanent resident, they will have to let you back into the country, but they can take temporary custody of your device for further examination. If you are not a citizen, CBP has the right to refuse you entry into the United States.
On December 20, 2017, both the House and Senate passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The bill, which was previously passed by both chambers in different versions, was consolidated into a single bill by a conference committee to work out the differences between the chambers’ respective bills. President Trump signed the bill on December 22, 2017.
The long-awaited tax bill was heavily negotiated by Republican lawmakers over the past few weeks and contains significant changes to the individual income, corporate, business and estate tax regimes. The original bill that passed the House doubled the estate tax exemption from $5.6 million for individuals in 2018 ($11.2 million for married couples) to $11.2 million for individuals ($22.4 million for married couples), with a full repeal scheduled to take effect in 2025. The original Senate bill called for a doubling of the estate tax exemption without any full repeal. The final bill that passed both chambers doubles the exemption for years 2018 to 2025, followed by a drop back to current exemption levels in 2026. There will be no repeal of the estate tax and the exemption will continue to be indexed for inflation. The final change to revert back to current levels in 2026 was made to satisfy Senate parliamentary restrictions to ensure that the overall tax bill fell within budgetary limitations, in order to pass the bill by a simple majority.
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On Oct. 7, 2016, the New Jersey legislature approved a bill that would eliminate the New Jersey estate tax by 2018. The bill is the result of a compromise between Gov. Chris Christie and the state legislature to increase the state’s gas tax by 23 cents per gallon and slightly reduce the state sales tax. The bill is expected to be signed by Governor Christie in mid-October. [UPDATE: The governor signed the bill into law on October 14, 2016].
New Jersey currently has one of the most penalizing estate tax regimes in the country, with an exemption of only $675,000 and a top marginal rate of 16 percent. The new legislation would increase the exemption to $2 million on Jan. 1, 2017, and eliminate the tax entirely on Jan. 1, 2018.