There's a one-word theme for the 2012 tax year: uncertainty. Chief among the reasons are the sky-high exemptions on the estate tax, the lifetime gift tax and the generation-skipping tax. All are currently set at $5 million, but they are headed for expiration at year's end. Most planners expect that these taxes and others - including taxes on capital gains and dividends - will be going up next year, though no one knows for sure. And that's the rub.

"The big question is whether the Bush-era tax cuts will expire at the end of 2012," says Eleanor Blayney, consumer advocate for the CFP Board. "So there's a lot of uncertainty. A lot of us assume that, one way or another, taxes will go up. And if not directly, then we may lose deductions."

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