A Federal Estate Tax Return must generally be filed for the estate of every U.S. citizen or resident whose gross estate, taxable gifts, and specific exemptions exceed $2,000,000 in 2006

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 completely phases out the federal estate and gift tax by 2010. The tax rates are lowered and the exemption is raised between 2002 and 2009, and the tax is completely eliminated in 2010. However, the post-act law will bring the Estate and Gift Tax back into existence in 2011.

A unified credit of $202,050 is available to offset both estate and gift taxes. Any part of the credit used to offset gift taxes is not available to offset estate taxes. As a result, although they are still taxable as gifts, lifetime taxable transfers no longer cushion the impact of progressive estate tax rates. Lifetime transfers and transfers made at death are combined for estate tax rate purposes.

Gift taxes are computed by applying the uniform rate schedule to lifetime taxable transfers (after deducting the unified credit) and subtracting the taxes payable for prior taxable periods. In general, estate taxes are computed by applying the uniform rate schedule to cumulative transfers and subtracting the gift taxes paid. An appropriate adjustment is made for taxes on lifetime transfers—such as certain gifts within three years of death—in a decedent's estate.

Among the deductions allowed in computing the amount of the estate subject to tax are funeral expenses, administrative costs, claims and bequests to religious, charitable, and fraternal organizations or government welfare agencies, and state inheritance taxes.

For 2005, an annual gift tax exclusion is provided that permits tax-free gifts to each donee of $11,000 for each year. A husband and wife who agree to treat gifts to third persons as joint gifts can exclude up to $22,000 a year to each donee. An unlimited exclusion for medical expenses and school tuition both paid directly to the institution for the benefit of any donee is also available in addition to the annual gift tax exclusion.