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April 17, 2015

The ‘Death Tax’ Is an Economic Bludgeon

Stephen Moore: “[H]ere’s an argument against the [‘death’] tax that isn’t well understood. It hardly raises any money. This tax is all economic pain, with no gain. According to the latest IRS statistics, in 2013 the estate tax raised $12.7 billion. In 2001 the tax collected nearly twice as much money ($23.5 billion) as in 2013. So it’s a small and shrinking source of government revenues. That $12.7 billion collected is out of $2.8 trillion in total federal revenue in 2013. In other words, a trivial 0.5 percent of federal tax receipts now come from estates. Get rid of the tax and the government still raises 99.5 percent of its money — at worst. … One reason the tax raises such a pittance is that the exemption level is now $5.4 million on an estate; there just aren’t that many estates above that level. Fewer than 5,000 estates pay the tax each year or about 2 of every 1,000 estates. … Liberals counter that this is a tax on the 5,000 super-rich billionaires who can afford it. Think again. The two richest Americans, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, have sheltered billions of dollars into the Buffet Foundation and Gates Foundation respectively. Those dollars will never be taxed by the estate tax; and most escaped the income tax too. The majority of other billionaires have done similar crafty estate tax planning to elude the tax entirely. The so-called ‘charitable deduction’ is the biggest tax dodge of all creating massive storehouses of wealth stuffed with billions of dollars of never-taxed money that will flow to other dubious ‘non-profits’ like Harvard or the Sierra Club. … Two-thirds of jobs come from small and family-owned businesses. Wouldn’t the smart way to create jobs be to make sure that the next generation can grow these enterprises rather than sell them off at auction to pay this economically destructive and fiscally inconsequential tax?”

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