Death Tax Repeal Long Overdue

It’s way past time this “temporary” tax was permanently gone!

Statement from Jim Martin, Chairman, the 60 Plus Association

Given on the occasion of the introduction of the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2105, sponsored by U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) and Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX)

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Hearing Room, Russell Building 253, March 26, 2015, 10:00 a.m.

Thanks to the efforts of far sighted, forward thinking lawmakers, particularly those here today, we’re on the verge of repealing what was intended as a temporary tax imposed on the wealthy to help finance World War I.

Yes it was a tax on the wealthy but it was historically enacted four times for defense purposes and history shows its temporary nature because it was repealed quickly three times after hostilities ended.

1797, repealed 1802. 1862, repealed 1870. 1898, repealed 1902. 1916, repealed, oh sorry here it is 2015 and not yet repealed. Clearly, the sole survivor from World War I.

It’s never too late to right a wrong and this Congress, thanks to so many, especially today’s attendees, will do the right thing and repeal this terrible tax.

Repeal opponents tout repeal as a tax benefit for the rich. Please. That horse is dead. Dismount. The wealthy, liberal and conservative alike, set up trusts and foundations to avoid it. To name a few Foundations–Rockfeller, Gates, Buffett, Turner, and a host of sports stars who now have foundations.

Instead it’s family owned small businesses, first generation minority and women-owned businesses who are hurt the most, but especially farmers and the like who are land and equipment rich but cash poor—peanut farmers in Plains, Georgia represented here today by Rep. Sanford Bishop, an early dedicated advocate for outright repeal who signed on with the late Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) chief sponsor of repeal a dozen years ago. A tribute to Mrs. Dunn could be naming it in her honor when it’s repealed, not if it’s repealed, but when!

It cuts across philosophical lines. Example: In the mid 1990s when I testified for repeal another who did so was a University of Southern California law professor Edward McCaffrey. I’ll never forget his immortal and rather shocking opening remarks. I’m an unrequited liberal who once believed in redistribution of wealth but economic studies show that leaving estates intact, one or more good things will often occur; investment in existing businesses or in new start ups, resulting in more workers and what do workers do? Pay taxes! In fact the good “unrequited” liberal Professor went on to label the estate tax as a tax (quote) liberals should love to hate! Imagine that.

While I get credit for the death tax label truth be told Reagan called it that as did others even before Reagan. But my organization takes credit for keeping it on everybody’s radar and we’ve helped move repeal from one goal line to the other, from Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA) days in 1992 with less than two dozen sponsors (only one Democrat, Rep. Nick Rahall, W. Va.) and no Senate advocates til Rep. Jon Kyl won his Arizona seat in 1994. I campaigned with him in Phoenix and true to his word one of his first bills in 1995, with just one co-sponsor, was repeal. Taking over their leadership roles of course are Senator John Thune (R-SD) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX).

Other unique names to call attention to this confiscatory tax: Grim Reaper’s tax, Exit or Departure tax, the Last Gasp or Last Grasp tax, or as Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) calls it, “the Final Outrage,” and one of my favorites, the Stiffest Tax of all. On a more somber note, a cruel tax, grieving over the loss of a family member while dealing with the IRS. Just think of the following irony. The first claimant in line for a family’s assets, not even a blood relative, but it’s old Uncle Sam with greedy outstretched hand.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said there are two certainties in life–death and taxes. But because of the estate tax there’s now a third certainty—taxes after death. So to honor those who support repeal we present the Benjamin Franklin award to the lawmakers who plan to make Mr. Franklin’s famous statement once again accurate, only two certainties in life, not three!

In 1962 I came to Washington as a newspaper reporter. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was President. Neil Armstrong had not yet walked on the moon. Heck, Strom Thurmond was still a Democrat and was even the junior Senator from South Carolina!

So I’ve been witness to a lot of history and seen a lot of taxes come, but not many go. It’s way past time this “temporary” tax was permanently gone a 4th and final time!