Some people say that the so-called death tax is unfair to people who
have worked hard or invested wisely and therefore have accumulated considerable wealth
during their lives. They argue the death tax amounts to double taxation because they have
already paid income tax, capital gains tax, or property taxes on the same assets.
Others argue that the since the death tax only applies to wealthy individuals, the tax
is progressive because it forces a redistribution of money from the upper class to the
middle and lower classes. They also claim that the death tax is one way to force people to
leave bequests to charities in their wills as a way of avoiding estate taxes.
Regardless of which perspective may appeal to you, there is one undeniable fact that
makes the death tax unfair. The law discriminates against the unmarried.
Upper-income married couples reap a windfall when it comes to federal estate taxes
because a person who dies may leave unlimited wealth to a surviving spouse without paying
one penny in estate taxes.
In contrast, an unmarried person who dies with an estate over $675,000 can have
anywhere from 25% to 60% of his or her estate taken by the federal government in estate
taxes. Many states also have significant inheritance taxes.
A wide variety of Americans can be adversely affected by death taxes. We have all read
stories about family farms or family businesses which must be sold in order to pay these
death taxes. But others can be affected.
A divorced parent who did well in the stock market may want to leave everything to her
children. She can, but the government will take a huge chunk first. A middle-aged
entrepeneaur who developed a successful business in the Silicon Valley cant leave
his assets to his parents without forfeiting a huge sum to the government. The survivor of
a long-term gay relationship falls into the same tax trap because of his or her
Repeal of the death tax would put unmarried people on the same par with married people
since neither would pay a tax. That would be equal protection under the law.