John Thune Copyright Alex Wong, Getty Images
Sen. John Thune

New Bill Calls for Death of the Death Tax

Republican senators resurrect legislation for its permanent repeal.

Republican Senators, led by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), reintroduced legislation Monday to permanently repeal the estate tax. The bill, appropriately titled the “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2019,” would pull the plug completely on what’s already a dying form of tax, with the Tax Policy Center estimating less than 2,000 people are expected to actually have taxable estates for 2018 (based on Internal Revenue Service data) as a result of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the Act). Thune had previously introduced the legislation shortly after the Act was passed.

According to an official statement published on the senator’s website, Thune believes that “[a]lthough we made great progress during the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act negotiations, the death tax still remains an onerous and unfair tax that punishes hard-working families.” He cites family-run farms, ranches and businesses as some of the hardest hit by the double taxation effect of the estate tax, vowing to remain committed to removing what he calls “roadblocks” to families looking to pass down their businesses to future generations.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), one of the cosponsors of the bill, echoed Thune’s sentiment, stating “It’s the government’s final insult to force grieving families to visit both the undertaker and the IRS on the same day” and calling on Democrats to join them in repealing the tax.

Democrat Support Not Likely

Such support doesn’t seem likely, as ironically, this proposal comes only a week after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) (who also recently announced her bid for President) proposed a new 2 percent “wealth tax” on Americans with more than $50 million in assets (and 3 percent on those who have more than $1 billion). Many are skeptical as to the constitutionality of her proposal.

To be honest, this isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. Similar legislation to permanently eliminate the estate tax has been proposed in the past, and Democrats continue to insist on taxing the rich, so it’s too early to draw any serious conclusions on the estate tax’s fate.

 

For some additional perspective on the Great Debate of the estate tax, see Patricia M. Soldano’s “Review of Reviews: ‘Afterlife of the Death Tax,’ Ind. L. J. (forthcoming)” article in the February 2019 issue of Trusts & Estates.

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