Thursday, April 16, 2015

Republicans repeal the so-called "death tax"

As both of my readers know, I am far less political these days than I was formerly. This is because politics are provisional, ephemeral even, and I prefer to focus on what is lasting and real. Nonetheless, from time-to-time something happens that I can't help but weigh in on. Such is the case for the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives today voting to repeal the so-called "death tax."

It seems that the Republicans have successfully convinced many people that everyone who dies and leaves an estate has some heinously high tax levied against the estate they leave. So, if you leave $5, the federal government takes 40%, or $2, thus impacting millions of people in the U.S. This impression is untrue.

So, before we get all happy-clappy about the "brave" House Republicans voting to repeal the so-called "death tax," let's look at what they repealed.

According to the IRS, in 2015, if you leave an estate of $5,430,000.00 or less, you currently incur no federal estate tax. If you leave an estate of more than $5,430,000.00 to your spouse or a federally-recognized charity, you still pay no federal estate tax. For a married couple, the amount is double, that is, $10,860,000.00.

So, if you leave an estate of more than $5,430,000.00 to someone other than your spouse, or a federally-recognized charity, then there is a tax levied on the amount over the figure above on a scale determined by how much is gifted to each beneficiary up to 40%. By golly they're brave! Standing up for the little people!

Suffice it to say, today's "bold" political act has zero impact on the vast majority of people in the U.S., except less tax revenue of an estimated $269 billion over ten years, or, enough to completely fund food stamps for more than three years. To give you some idea, the government estimates that the repealed "death tax" will apply to 0.2% of people who will die this year.



All this nonsense about doing it to protect family farms is disingenuous in the extreme. I think an amendment to the existing law could easily be crafted to preserve family farms, especially when calculated in terms of property (i.e., land that is cultivated or business assets for family-owned firms). What is disingenuous is that the Republicans have sought for years, via other legislation, to put family-owned farms out-of-business, favoring agri-business instead.

Given all the fuss Republicans make about providing public assistance to people who work, sometimes more than one job, for a living, why are they so concerned to perpetuate wealth and privilege while opposing a living wage? In light of all this, please tell me again about this "conservatism" you espouse.

Trust me, I am no great fan of the Democrats either. What brought on this post? A statement issued by one of our representatives from Utah, Mia Love, who is not my representative (my rep, Chris Stewart, also voted for this):
Today, I voted to repeal the federal estate tax or "death tax". This tax has devastating effects on families in our country. When a loved one dies, the spouse and children are forced to cough up 40% of everything they have. This often results in a family declaring bankruptcy just to pay the taxes.

This nation was not built by penalizing hard working Americans who have spent their lifetime working to provide and save for their families. It was built on the idea that you could come to the United States and work hard to make a better life for your children. Taxing away that opportunity for future generations is not what the founding fathers envisioned and is not what our country stands for
I would be curious, based on the truth about the federal estate tax, according to Representative Love, what does our country stand for? Does this repeal foster the meritocracy she seems to (contradictorily) espouse in her statement? Most importantly, Reps Love and Stewart, in Congress, for whom do you stand?

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