Should we get rid of the estate tax?

Should we get rid of the estate tax?

The estate tax, a federal tax on assets transferred from deceased persons to their heirs, has long been a bete noire of the right. Dubbed “the death tax” by Republicans, Donald Trump campaigned on the promise to repeal it. Opponents say it’s grossly unfair–why should people be taxed again after their deaths? But proponents say the inheritance tax provides essential revenue and only affects a tiny percentage of estates. Plus, Paris Hilton and the Trump kids are rich enough to afford it. Do we need the estate tax?


Critics say taxing the income of deceased people–income that has already been taxed before it is passed down to their heirs–is federal government overreach at its worst.

At the Wall Street Journal, Michael J. Graetz argues the estate tax is an inheritance tax is absolutely fair, and that our country needs the revenue it generates.

Is it fair for Paris Hilton to inherit her great-grandfather Conrad’s fortune without paying any tax on it? Or Yankee owner George Steinbrenner’s 13 grandchildren? This is exactly what happens when there is no estate or inheritance tax on the bequests of the very rich.Indeed, that’s what the case for the estate tax boils down to: basic fairness. The tax affects a small number of people who inherit large amounts of wealth–and who can afford to give up a portion of their windfall to help finance their government. 

New York University School of Law professor Lily L. Batchelder says “It would be more accurate to call wealth transfer taxes such as the estate tax ‘silver spoon’ taxes, not ‘death’ taxes as their opponents prefer.” Billionaire Warren Buffet is a huge advocate.

But others say it’s just immoral. Even if people have millions of dollars, they should be allowed to leave that money to their children.

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Published at Fri, 09 Jun 2017 13:00:20 +0000