When you look around your home, what do you see? If you’re like most Americans, you see things purchased, given, and passed down. And yes, probably laundry. And dishes. Sigh.
Maybe some of those dishes are your grandma’s china that you keep in an Ikea hutch. In an antique dresser drawer sits grandpa’s pocket watch and a stack of remote controls. LED bulbs glow from great grandma’s Tiffany lamp.
We cherish these old items and the memories of loved ones now gone. They worked hard, made a name for themselves, and passed on not only their stories but physical items that remind us of them. Inheritance — be it family heirlooms, money, a family business, or the family farm — is a gift of their love and hard work.
The injustice of the estate tax, often called the death tax, is that it takes a portion of this inheritance away from the living against the wishes of those who earned it. After income, property, and other taxes have already chipped away at an inheritance, the death tax comes along to tax it again.
Imagine if an IRS agent walked into your home, boxed up your grandma’s china and walked out the door with it. That’s basically what the estate tax does.
Because the death tax is unfair to both the living and the dead, lawmakers are considering eliminating it as part of a larger tax reform framework.
Critics of the proposal say that reform is unnecessary since the tax is only levied against large estates worth millions of dollars. They say the rich should pay more and stir up envy to encourage Americans to turn on each other. But, if it’s unfair to take a portion of an inheritance from a middle class family, is it fair to take it from any family? After all, it doesn’t take too much land for a family farm to fall under the estate tax threshold these days.
Rather than continue to divide Americans into warring camps, death tax advocates should recognize that the value of passing on an inheritance to the next generation is about more than money. It is a gift from one generation to the loved ones of the next, a time honored act of benevolence.
After a lifetime of hard work, good decisions, and a little luck, if people want to send what they have accumulated to the government, that is their right to do so, but it is wrong to force them.
To protect the achievements of past generations and the opportunities of future ones, America should abolish the death tax for all families and create a single standard for all.
What are your thoughts?
Should the government eliminate the death tax, or should we continue to create divisions and re-tax property passed from one generation to the next?
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