Death Tax Failure

The death tax, aka “estate tax” was, briefly, 0 for 2010, then rose to 35% of an estate’s value above $5 million for 2011 and 2012.  Next year—in addition to the fiscal cliff of the Obama tax increases and the Obama sequestration that occur on 1 Jan—the death tax is set to rise again, to a usurious 55% of anything above $1 million.

Never mind that this theft of a parent’s hard-won legacy, intended to be for the benefit of the his sons and daughters, simply leads to market distortions by those rich enough to be able to follow the Warren Buffet example of transferring wealth to, for instance, charitable organizations (good for them, though), and so avoiding—legally and appropriately—sending revenue unnecessarily to the Federal government.

Consider the choices lesser lights—Joe the Plumber with his business, for instance—are forced to make instead.

When [Mr Wurzelbacher] begins to consider retirement with perhaps $10 million of lifetime wealth, he can reinvest the profits in the business (which means growth and more workers) or live lavishly in retirement and spend the money down to zero.

In the first case, he is smacked with federal…death taxes that can take away half of the wealth.  In the second instance, he pays no tax.  A new study by the Joint Economic Committee Republican staff estimates that because of this disincentive to save and invest “the estate tax has cumulatively reduced the amount of capital stock in the US economy by roughly $1.1 trillion.”

Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama insists that this is entirely fair—that death tax is needed for his redistribution programs.  Despite those choices and loopholes.

As the WSJ notes, though (the above link), there is a moral question here, too:

The levy makes Uncle Sam up to a half-partner in the proceeds of successful businesses.  That is on top of the property and income taxes and other assessments that owners pay year after year.  … What is truly unfair is when a family-owned enterprise has to be sold at auction to pay the death tax to the IRS.

Obama has yet to address this moral question in any serious fashion.  Keep that in mind as you go to the polls.

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