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Wealthy Lobby to Keep Estate Tax, Citing Fairness

More than 99 percent of the nation's taxpayers currently are exempt from the federal estate tax, slated for elimination under President Donald Trump's tax proposal. (Pixabay)
More than 99 percent of the nation's taxpayers currently are exempt from the federal estate tax, slated for elimination under President Donald Trump's tax proposal. (Pixabay)
May 3, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. – More than 50 multimillionaires have signed a letter urging President Donald Trump and Congress to abandon their attempts to abolish the federal estate tax, the only tax on inherited wealth in the United States.

Chuck Collins, heir to the Oscar Mayer fortune and author of the book "Born on Third Base," said the tax only applies to households with assets of more than $11 million. According to Collins, the tax was put in place 100 years ago to prevent the kind of inherited aristocracy over which the nation fought a revolutionary war.

"In that way, the estate tax is a fundamentally American tax," Collins explained. "It's really the way in which we protect a level playing field and ensure that too much inequality doesn't sort of upend our democratic system."

He said starting in the 1990s, a handful of wealthy families - including Mars, Walton, Gallo and others - invested millions lobbying to end the estate tax, a move that would save their heirs billions.

Trump once called the tax a "burden on the American worker." But Collins noted that more than 99 percent of Americans will never be subject to the tax, and is confident the estates that will take a hit can afford it.

Supporters of Trump's proposed tax plan argue that lowering taxes on corporations and the wealthy will lead to a revived economy and ultimately increase tax revenues.

Collins acknowledged that cutting taxes for the middle class, along with increased wages, can boost the economy, but he said tax breaks for people with millions in the bank wouldn't change their consumer behavior.

"Cutting taxes for multimillionaires and billionaires actually has very little positive economic impact," he stated. "The rest of us have to pick up the slack, and 'the rest of us' is the middle class."

If Trump's claim to a $10 billion net worth is true, Collins estimated that eliminating the estate tax would effectively transfer $4 billion from U.S. coffers to his heirs.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA