Burying the Death Tax Once and For All
April 15, 2005
Last week, two days before "Tax Day", I joined 271 of my House colleagues in fittingly providing Americans with tax relief by passing bipartisan legislation which permanently repeals the death tax.
The death tax, also known as the estate tax, was originally repealed four years ago as part of a larger tax package. But, when the bill moved to the Senate for consideration, language was added which would force the tax relief to sunset on December 31, 2010, thus reinstating the death tax. In 2002, the House voted twice to make death tax relief permanent, but the Democratic-controlled Senate failed to pass the plan and opted instead to keep in place only a temporary repeal.
Hard-working American men and women spend a lifetime saving and providing for their children and grandchildren, all the while paying federal taxes. Throughout their lives they pay taxes on the income and gains from labor and investment. Because of the heavy burden of income taxes, property taxes, and other levies, it is enormously difficult to accumulate savings for a family's future. And then as the wishes of these hard-working Americans are fulfilled and the savings passed on to the next generation, as much as 55 percent of their after-tax savings is confiscated by the federal government. The death tax is double taxation - plain and simple.
A family already grieving the loss of a loved one is dealt a second blow when the tax collector comes knocking. The simple fact is that with this tax in place, families cannot afford to pass on their farms or small businesses. Family-owned businesses and family farms have long embodied ingenuity and industriousness, serving as cornerstones of the American economy.
But, with the current death tax in place, it is cheaper for people to sell a business rather than pass it on to their children. That is outrageous.
According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, more than 70 percent of family businesses do not survive to the second generation and 87 percent do not make it to the third. As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, I find the fatal blow that the death tax can exact on family-owned farms particularly troubling.
In addition, the death tax reduces economic growth, increases the cost of capital and keeps interest rates higher. Ironically, the death tax raises relatively little actual revenue.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, " in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." We can at least try to prevent them from striking at the same time by eliminating the death tax once and for all. I am pleased with the passage of this critical legislation in the House, and I urge the Senate to act swiftly in making the death tax repeal permanent.