Written by Jeremiah W. Doyle IV, JD, LLM
Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) section 6166 allows an executor to defer the payment of the federal estate tax attributable to the interest in a closely held business. The deferred payments may be extended over a period of up to fourteen years and nine months following the death of the business owner. With an estate tax exemption of $12.06 million in 2022, many estates can pass free of federal estate tax, making a section 6166 election unnecessary for the value of a business interest included in the gross estate. However, with the estate, gift, and generation skipping tax exemption scheduled to be reduced to $5 million (indexed for inflation) beginning January 1, 2026, a section 6166 election may become valuable for more estates holding an interest in a closely held business. Thus, it is probably time to dust off a copy of section 6166 and review its complex and somewhat ambiguous provisions.