Congress allows levy to
lapse– but not for long
After American taxpayers spent a dismal 2009 teetering on the brink of fiscal disaster, leave it to this Congress to give the country’s most productive citizens an incentive to drop dead in the New Year.
The death tax went into hibernation Friday. Washington Democrats have been so busy figuring out how to redistribute wealth through crushing health care regulations, they couldn’t find the time to keep redistributing wealth through the federal estate tax.
President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts gradually increased the amount of assets exempt from the tax, phasing it out entirely in 2010. Because the GOP could never amass the votes to kill off the death tax for good, it’s set to return in 2011– at 2001 rates. That means an exemption of only $1 million, with larger estates taxed at a highly punitive 55 percent.
The House passed a bill to make last year’s rates permanent– a $7 million asset exemption for married couples, with estates larger than that taxed at 45 percent– but the Senate didn’t take up the legislation.
If those wealthy enough to have their fortunes plundered by Congress die in 2010, their heirs won’t have to split the estate with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. At least for now.
Some members of Congress are considering a ghoulish, constitutionallydubious retroactive death tax patch to make sure the dead can’t escape one final shakedown. How dignified.
In the meantime, estate planners say congressional incompetence has left them temporarily unable to provide guidance to those trying to arrange their end-oflife affairs.
And the lack of congressional action has made every will that references the death tax out of date and awash with uncertainty– the very thing wills are supposed to eliminate.
The death tax presupposes government always retains a claim to the fruits of your labor and after-tax investments, no matter how much you paid in your lifetime. That’s tyrannical.
Wealthy redistributionists who subscribe to the ideals of “social justice” and want bureaucrats and welfare recipients to have a stake in their estates can always include Uncle Sam in their wills or trusts.
Entrepreneurs willing to continue working so their children and grandchildren can inherit and maintain family businesses and farms, meanwhile, shouldn’t have to worry that their life’s work will be “sold off to pay the taxes” because politicians can’t get a grip on their spending problems.
If the collectivists now in charge of the Capitol had the slightest bit of decency, they’d put the estate tax out of its misery once and for all.–Las Vegas Review Journal