Originally published on PAOO December 30, 2009 just two days before the year without an estate tax. The end of that year promises to be a trope in many murder mysteries for years to come.
I just read in the Wall Street Journal that many people are being kept on life support in the expectation of living till the effective date of estate tax repeal. I doubt its enough to create a power surge in the grid when all those plugs are pulled on January 1, but it is a real phenomenon. Being one willing to go from the ridiculous to the ridiculously absurd, it occured to me that in order to be as safe as possible, you might want to equip a hospital plane to get to a more favorable time zone. Which way should you fly ?
A lot of people would think to go East. After all we are GMT - 5 making it later as we fly East. That's what a lot of people think. Don't be one of them. Head west. Only don't stop in LA or Hawaii or even Samoa. Get to Fiji. Actually Tonga is good enough. That puts you in GMT + 12, which is as good as it gets. Kiribati is even closer, but I never even heard of that till just now. But wait.
It doesn't do you any good. According to Revenue Ruling 66-85 your time of death for estate tax purposes is based on the time zone where the estate tax return is to be filed. That's the rule for US citizens residing in the US. Revenue Ruling 74-24 gives a different rule for US citizens living overseas. There is is based on their domicile at time of death. Now your domicile is not where you are at any point in time. It is not necessarily even where you spend most of of your time. "Home is where the heart is". In the United States states with high income tax rates think that nobody, in their heart, ever leaves them. Don't get me started on this one.
According to the latest 706 instructions all estate tax returns are filed in Cincinatti, Ohio. That would mean that all you have to be able to do is hang on till the ball finishes dropping in Times Square. Unless you are domiciled in the Yukon. The commentator from whom I got these cites says that sombody from LA who dies in New York goes by West Coast time, so there is a little bit of doubt in my mind. Maybe you should hang on till the calendar turns in Samoa to be totally free from doubt.
At any rate forget about chartering the plane. I doubt it is practical but if you could establish domicile in Fiji between now and then you would be in the best shape possible. Maybe send a couple of cases of Fiji water to everybody in the family. That wouldn't be enough, but every little bit helps.