2010: An Estate Tax Odyssey

The estate tax is a tax imposed when somebody dies and bequeaths or devises money or property to some beneficiary, like their children. While it is It crops up quite a bit as a political hot button issue. The President and many Republicans want to reform or eliminate the estate tax, referring to it as the "death tax" in order to make it sound sinister and unwholesome. Most Democrats, on the other hand, see the estate tax as a good, in that it disrupts the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few and makes dynastic fortunes more difficult to sustain. I don't have a particularly strong view one way or another (especially because it is unlikely my parent's estate will be large enough for the estate tax to be an issue). But, if I was a scion of the wealthy I would hope they would die in the year 2010. Here's why: There have already been incremental changes to the estate tax, reducing the percentage estates are taxed at. But, in 2010, the estate tax will be dormant just for that year. In 2001, Congress passed a bill to phase out the tax, culminating in complete elimination in 2010. There are even special changes in the income tax code that will come into force that year, giving automatic increases to what is taxable under the income tax (if there is appreciation or depreciation in value between the original value of the property and the value of the property at time of death, that difference can eventually be taxable to the beneficiary if they ever sell the property. The income tax provisions creates a cushioning effect that would lessen the income tax burden, in conjunction with the elimination of the estate tax burden). Anyway, the bill has a built-in sunset provision that it is only applicable for 10 years. This means that in 2011, everything will revert to the pre-2001 state. Of course, that means there are 5 more years in which Congress can modify the bill or create new regulations, but if they don't, this will just be a decade of fooling around with the Code with no permanent consequences. That just strikes me as amusing, or at least as amusing as the Internal Revenue Code could possibly be. What do you think?

  1. I’m all for an estate tax in spirit, whether it’s a specific estate tax limited by a rational lower bound, or rules taxing inheritance income. If you worked hard your whole life to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, why would you deny your children that same opportunity?

    I think proponents of the estate tax should start calling it the “Paris Hilton Tax” to counter the double-plus-good “death tax” soundbite.

    September 15th, 2006 at 6:57 pm

Post a Comment

(or leave a trackback to your blog)