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December 4, 2009

The Immorality of the Estate Tax

Joe Charlebois

The grim reaper is soon to return to the U.S. taxpayer with scythe in hand. As the small business owners and individual farmers look to pass on family entities to the next generation, the current Congress looks to rescind the one year hiatus of relief – scheduled for 2010 – for the estate tax.


The president and Congress are looking to bypass next year’s temporary repeal and implement a permanent 45% confiscation of a lifetime of work.


This is morally corrupt.


The members of Congress who look to reinstate this penalty are akin to crack addicts stealing pension checks from retirees to feed their insatiable spending habits.


Playing divisive partisan politics, the liberals in Congress are again using class warfare as a way to stick it to the so called rich.


What this is – in reality – is a confiscation of private property, nothing more.


Why is this type of taxation wrong?


The Declaration of Independence, which is based on Natural Law, states that we are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When John Locke wrote of these principles it was life, liberty and property. We, like no other nation, have been able to follow and pursue our dreams without fear that our government would seize what we had rightly earned, such as our home, land or business.


The institution of the death tax is antithetical to our founding principles. It is the direct confiscation of property with no moral justification.


Property, whether in the form of land, building, business or cash, are in essence parts of one’s life. When we go to work – whether for someone else or ourselves – we are trading hours of our lives for a certain level of compensation. At the end of our lives we should be solely responsible for directing how our life’s work should be passed on. The government should have no say in how it is spent.


Our founders assured us with well reasoned thought that no man’s property can be taken without the due process of law.


The property gained in one’s lifetime is subject to federal, state and local income tax, sales tax, and Social Security taxes as well as many other taxes. Why then should already taxed property be subject to another 45% reduction just because the owner has passed on?


We are all losers in this scenario, but specifically a small business owner or farmer who may have accumulated property valued at more than over $ 3.5 million is expected to forfeit nearly half to the bureaucrats in Washington to feed their habits. The heirs of such businesses or estates are typically not in a position to be able to pay the estate tax and are forced to sell part if not all of the business, farm or estate.


For the businesses and farms that are sold off, jobs are lost. Independent farms give way to corporate farms.


If Congress is looking to provide stimulus to the economy; if it is looking to lower the unemployment figures; if it wants to keep the independent farms operating; if it cares about the mom and pop stores that work hard to compete with the box stores, then it needs to truly consider that permanent repeal of the estate tax is not only the economically sound thing to do, but morally it is imperative to do so.


Note: If Congress does nothing, in 2011 the threshold for estate taxes will drop to $1 million and increase to 55%.


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