The tax relief package wending its way through the House got a little sweeter for small bankers this week.

Late Wednesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, R- Texas, agreed to make more of an estate's assets tax-free faster. Lawmakers had planned to raise the current $600,000 exemption to $1 million over 14 years. Under the deal cut this week, the higher exemption would be in place by 2007.

"This is an enormous benefit for small banks and small businesses," said Kenneth A. Guenther, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of America.

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