SEATTLE - They say you can't take it with you and, in December,
Congress must decide how much estates should be taxed when someone
dies. The federal estate tax expires at the end of this year.
It doesn't affect most people - only one in a hundred is wealthy enough
for their estate to be taxed - but some of the super-rich are lobbying
to eliminate it. Groups such as United for a Fair Economy
(UFE) disagree; its Responsible Wealth Director, Mike Lapham, points
out that the tax averages 17 percent of a multimillion dollar estate,
and he believes paying it is the right thing to do.
"Keeping 83 cents on your dollar, being able to pass that on to the
next generation or to charity, doesn't seem like a terribly bad deal.
That, to me, is a fair amount to pay back to a society that, really,
created the opportunity to build your wealth in the first place."
There are proposals to keep the estate tax, and others that would end
it. Lapham says his group supports a plan introduced by Washington
Congressman Jim McDermott (D-7th District.)
"We think the strongest one is Representative McDermott's bill, the
Sensible Estate Tax Act, which says we should set the exemption at $2
million per individual or $4 million per couple and set the rate at 45
percent above that. That would bring in much more revenue than any of
the other proposals."
Right now, a married couple can pass on $7 million to their heirs
before paying any estate tax, which has been reduced several times in
the past decade.
Opponents of the tax say it penalizes the families of successful
people. But UFE's viewpoint is that reducing or eliminating the tax
would ensure that the rich get richer, at a time when the government
cannot afford to lose a source of income. The group's Web site is www.faireconomy.org