No family should have to visit the taxman and undertaker on the same day, but because of the federal estate tax (or the “death tax”) many families are forced to do just that. This week Congressman Kevin Brady’s Death Tax Repeal Act will reach 218 cosponsors, enough to ensure passage of the bill through the U.S. House of Representatives.
Very few bills enjoy this kind of support. This legislation also has the backing of Chairman Dave Camp of the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, and Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have both been consistent supporters of death tax repeal. This bipartisan bill, which now can be passed with its cosponsors alone, is a timely political gift for Republicans. The only step left for the House to take is to bring it to a full vote on the floor, something we are confident they will do this summer.
The last time death tax repeal came up for a vote in the House was 2005 – nine years ago. Most members, 236 in fact, have never voted on the issue and many if not all of them want to be put on the record for death tax repeal before facing their constituents in the midterm elections later this year.
When we talk with folks across the country about why we should get rid of this harmful tax, I talk about how it was intended to be a temporary tax to help pay for World War I. The death tax was originally enacted four times as a ‘temporary’ tax to support defense purposes in 1797, 1862, 1898 and 1916 and with the end of conflict, it was quickly repealed the first three times. However, following the end of WWI in 1918, this ‘temporary’ tax was conveniently allowed to continue as Congress stepped up its spending at a dizzying pace.
The Death Tax has stuck around almost 100 years longer than the war it helped defeat. Now we are rallying support to try and bury this tax for the final time. If death tax repeal comes to the House floor, the media and the Democrats will try to claim business owners and family farmers who pay the tax are one in the same with the Wall Street crowd. They’ll say it’s about millionaires and billionaires, and accuse Republicans of making a political blunder. But it will blow up in their faces because the American people are on our side. When polled nearly 70 percent of voters consistently say the death tax is unfair and should be repealed completely.
Unfortunately, even when the House passes death tax repeal, the Senate under the leadership of Majority Leader Harry Reid will not take up its version, Sen. John Thune’s Death Tax Repeal Act, even though Senator Reid and 79 of his colleagues voted to “repeal or reduce the estate tax” through a non-binding budget amendment last year. The only way to see a vote to repeal the death tax occur in the Senate is for seniors across the country to elect pro-death tax repeal candidates this fall.
Studies from liberal and conservative economists alike reach the same conclusion: the death tax raises very little money, but kills well over a million jobs and falls disproportionately on small businesses and the middle class, not the rich who hire lawyers and accountants to avoid the tax whenever possible. The only people making money on this tax are those in the life insurance industry, run by moguls like Warren Buffet, who received $70 billion in funding for investment from life insurance premiums in 2011, over five times what the government received from death tax revenue that year.
To seniors, the death tax represents an unwarranted confiscation of a lifetime of hard work from the next generation. Families with businesses, farms or ranches may be of modest means, but the tax hits them hard on their inventory and land, which often appreciates in value steeply through the years. For seniors that have saved their entire lives to keep a small business running and to own a home, the threat of losing that hard work to the government is a constant financial and emotional burden.
Through the hard work of Members of Congress like Congressman Kevin Brady, Senator John Thune, Chairman Dave Camp, Speaker John Boehner and the 218 cosponsors in the House of Representatives to support repeal of the death tax, we will be one step closer to repeal. We urge all seniors to call their Representatives and ask them to vote yes on H.R. 2429, the Death Tax Repeal Act, when it comes up for a vote this summer. It’s time to bury the death tax for the fourth and final time.
Jim Martin is Chairman and Founder of the 60 Plus Association. Legendary entertainer Pat Boone is the group’s National Spokesman.