It’s time to kill the death tax once and for all

By Jim Martin and Pat Boone opinion contributors – 05/15/17 02:00 PM EDT

While on the campaign trail candidate Donald Trump minced no words when he promised that, “The Trump plan will repeal the death tax.”

The last time there was a vote to repeal the death tax was 2015.  The U.S. House of Representatives held a stand-alone vote on the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015 (HR1105), sponsored by Reps. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and it passed by a bipartisan vote of 240-179.  Past attempts to repeal the death tax have come close to success.  In 2005, a bill to repeal the death tax passed overwhelmingly in the House with the support of 42 Democrats – including eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus-but fell three votes short of the 60 votes necessary in the Senate.

We have been fighting to repeal the death tax for some 25 years and the time to act is past due.

We believe, like most Americans, that it is morally wrong for the government to cash in on the passing of a loved one. It also doesn’t make economic sense as it absolutely destroys jobs by targeting be America’s main economic engine – small (and often family-owned) businesses. Small businesses have been responsible for 60 to 80 percent of all net new jobs in the last decade.

To those who claim that this is a tax cut for the rich, we say ‘that horse is dead, dismount’.  The wealthy on the left such as Mark Zuckerburg, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Oprah Winfrey, to name a few, and on the right, two of the more well-known ones, Pat Boone and Donald Trump, don’t pay it.  They set up trusts and foundations to shelter their assets and who can blame them?  Instead, its small businesses, farmers, and ranchers all across the country that suffer.

The death tax has been enacted four times as a “temporary” tax for defense purposes: in 1797, in 1862, in 1898 and in 1916. The first three times, it was repealed shortly after hostilities ended. But following the end of World War I in 1918, this “temporary” tax was conveniently kept in place as Congress increased spending at a dizzying pace. We believe it is now way past time for the death tax to go. President Trump plans to make good on his promise to end this confiscatory tax. Our goal is to see it repealed this year, 2017, roughly the 100th anniversary of its enactment, making it the lone survivor of World War I.

Studies from liberal and conservative economists alike reach the same conclusion: the death tax raises very little net revenue, but kills literally millions of jobs and falls disproportionately on small businesses, farmers, ranchers, and the like, whose resources are tied up in equipment and land.

Since the inception of the death tax, rates and exemptions have changed, creating work for accountants, attorneys and estate planners while causing a nightmare for family businesses. It’s time to stop tinkering with the law and drive a stake through the “temporary” death tax a fourth and final time.

It is never too late to right a wrong and this Congress and our President have an opportunity to do the right thing and repeal this job robbing levy.

Jim Martin is chairman and founder of the 60 Plus Association, a 501(c)(4) group created to promote solutions to seniors’ issues on the basis of free markets, less taxes and smaller government. Pat Boone is the 60 Plus Association’s national spokesman.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.