Welcome to 2023! Here are some things to look forward to.
The Texas Legislature
Thankfully, the Texas legislature meets for only 140 days every 2 years. If you really think that is not enough time to do real harm, then you are real wrong. During the 87th session, over 6,000 bills were filed, and 1073 bills were passed. Sadly, that only tells part of the story because after the regular session ended the governor tacked on 3 special sessions.
This time around we are off to a roaring start, with more than 1,000 bills filed before Christmas. You can look forward to 5 months of legislative skullduggery, manipulation, and dirty tricks. Some people think the legislative session is the best time of the year. You may disagree about that, but you have to agree that it is certainly the most fun.
Federal Estate Tax Exemption and Gift Tax Exclusion
The 2023 federal estate tax exemption is now a whopping $12.92 million per individual. That is an increase of almost $800,000 from the 2022 levels. The exemption amount will go up again in 2024 and 2025 and then, if Congress doesn’t act, in 2026 it will fall back to an estimated $6.8 million. Texas, of course, does not have an estate tax. The take-away to minimize estate tax is to die a Texas resident before January 1, 2026. Or, if you want to live a bit longer, you could do some estate planning and contact your congressman to urge some action.
The 2023 annual federal gift tax exclusion increased from $16,000 to $17,000.
Misleading Medicare Advantage Plans Ads
The government is finally paying attention to misleading ads for Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage programs are privately run versions of the government’s Medicare program, but they do not offer coverage for all doctors or prescriptions. The government recently noticed that a lot of the programs are falsely advertising their scope of coverage. The administration has published a proposed rule prohibiting some types of ads. The rule, which clocks in at 957 pages, addresses a few other issues. See federalregister.gov/d/2022-26956.
If you are on Medicare, then you already know that some doctors will not accept it. The government isn’t helping any. They want to cut physician’s pay by 2% in 2023 and 3.5% in 2024, which will drive more doctors out of the market. There is no talk of cutting the profits of the middleman: insurance companies.
US Supreme Court Issues
The US Supreme Court is in full swing and there are interesting issues to be decided. Up for grabs: cases concerning environmental issues, religious rights vs LGBTQ rights, immigration, state legislative authority vs judicial authority to decide election laws, voting rights, child adoptions for Native American children, and copyrights regarding Andy Warhol and Prince. When they come out, read the majority opinions for the law; then read the dissenting opinions for colorful commentary.
Federal Government Deficit
The federal government ran a deficit of $248 billion in November 2022. The common folk among us would suggest some cost cutting, and you don’t have to look far. The executive branch of the federal government employs more than 4 million people. Contrast that to our other two branches of government. The legislative branch employs 31,000 staffers, and of course 100 senators and 435 voting representatives. The judicial branch employs 30,000 people, which includes the following authorized judges: 179 appellate court judges, 677 district court judges, 561 full time magistrate judges and 345 bankruptcy court judges. Which branch do you think would benefit from a bit of pruning?
2023 is shaping up to be an interesting year.
Hammerle Finley Can Help
Attorney Virginia Hammerle has practiced litigation and estate planning for 40 years. She is founder and managing attorney for Hammerle Finley Law Firm, hammerle.com. Contact her at legaltalktexas.com for comments and to subscribe to her newsletter.