Time to Kill the Death Tax

Posted: Mar 31, 2015 12:01 AM

For the first time in a decade, the U.S. House of Representatives may soon vote to kill the death tax.

The death tax in the United States was born in the North and South as a way to pay for the Civil War. When the war ended, the tax lingered until 1870. It sprang back to life to fund World War I. The war ended and the tax shrank. It then grew to full fury during World War II.

The tax has been cut back, then expanded. It even disappeared for one full year in 2010 before returning. But even after being cropped back in 2012 it stands ready to grow again to threatens millions more Americans. America's death tax rate at 40 percent is the fourth highest in the world.

Congressman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has led the charge in the House of Representatives to finally end the death tax once and for all. Last week his bill, H.R. 1105 — The Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015 — was passed through the House Ways & Means Committee on a party line vote 22-10. All Republicans voted for and all Democrats voted against.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) has an identical bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by 26 Republicans including Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio.

There are five reasons to hold a vote now to end the death tax:

One, polling over the years shows that 70 percent of Americans wish to end the death tax. This is a wonderful sign of a healthy society. The death tax does not hit everyone. But the siren song of envy is refused by most Americans. That is not true in countries that envy rather than encourage success. Americans know that hating those who work hard and are financially successful is to one day hate your siblings, children, and neighbors.

Two, the death tax is a tax on lifetime savings. It destroys jobs by reducing the amount of savings available to invest in today and tomorrow's businesses. The Tax Foundation calculates that ending the death tax would create 150,000 jobs and strengthen the economy to the point that having no death tax would raise $8 billion more in taxes than having the death tax. It is a tax that loses money for the government.

Three, even politicians have figured out that the death tax is a political loser. Thirty-three states have abolished their death tax. They learned that their own citizens move to other states without a death tax.

Four, abolishing the death tax is the first step to all forms of tax reform. Some Americans like the FAIR Tax: a national sales tax to replace the income tax. Step one on that path is to end the death tax. Some prefer a flat tax that taxes consumed income one time at one rate. That also requires an end to the death tax. While we debate what form of tax reform we want we can all agree to, first, kill the death tax. This is why House Ways & Means Chairman Paul Ryan who is designing the GOP’s next steps towards strong reform scheduled a vote now to pass Kevin Brady's legislation to end the death tax. It is everyone's consensus first step.

Five, burying the death tax will set an important precedent. Taxes are best eliminated rather than pruned back. The death tax rates have gone up and down, the exemption has gone up and down but such changes always ended up allowing the tax to live and grow again. Only abolition works.

It has been ten years since we have had a vote on ending the death tax. A majority of Congressmen and Senators have never cast a vote to save or end the death tax. It is time for voters to find out just where their elected officials stand.