National Conversation Shifting on Taxing Multi-Millionaires’ Estates

Over the last two weeks, the national narrative has shifted dramatically regarding the House of Representatives passage of HR 1105 – legislation that aims to repeal the federal estate tax. 

Proponents of the bill claim its passage would protect hard working Americans, from small businessmen to family farmers, despite the fact it only impacts a small amount of wealthy individuals every year. It seems that the public isn’t buying it.

Yesterday, Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson wrote that repeal “runs afoul of Americans’ distaste for hereditary aristocracy. Economic success should be earned, not bestowed.”

The estate tax has long been one that only effects those in the highest stratosphere of the economic ladder, while providing the funding for essential programs whose budgets have been slashed year after year. At current levels, the estate tax is estimated to bring in more than 250 billion dollars in revenue over the next decade.

Commenting on the repeal efforts, Patriotic Millionaire Mac Linan stated, “I am a young person raised in a wealthy family and I support the estate tax.  I stand to inherit money from my parents’ estate, but the inheritance that would benefit me most is a nation with strong public infrastructure, robust school systems, affordable housing, and justice for my friends and neighbors. I had the great luck of being born into a family that was able to accumulate millions of dollars with the help of our collective roads, legal systems, regulations, public programs, and broad community support.  Because of my family’s experience and connections, my access to good health care and education, and my lack of debt I am already ‘way ahead’ of most of my peers; I do not need any more tax-free advantages.”

A recent Pew Research poll shows 79% of Americans do not believe that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share in taxes. In a representative democracy, we believe that Congress should take heed of public opinion and invest in policies that help better the lives of hard working Americans, rather than cut the taxes for the top 0.18%.

From Washington Post:

“With the country’s many problems, eliminating the tax hardly seems a top priority. It affects almost no one. In 2013, 2,596,993 Americans died, but there were only 4,687 taxable estate returns filed, reports the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. That’s 0.18 percent of deaths. The number is so low because much wealth is exempted from the tax. In 2015, the exemption is $5.43 million for individuals and $10.86 million for married couples. Above those amounts, the top tax rate is 40 percent.

You have to do exceptionally well to be touched by the estate tax. Not surprisingly, the tax provides only a tiny share of federal revenues, recently less than 1 percent. That’s about $20 billion annually, trending upward. Even so, the projected total for the next decade (2015-2024) is nearly $250 billion, says the Joint Committee.”

In addition to Robert Samuelson, both USA Today’s and the Los Angeles Times’ editorial boards have come out strongly in opposition to estate tax repeal.

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