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Q&A on the Death Tax

July 12, 2013
Senatory Chuck Grassley , Dysart Reporter

Q: Will Congress take up tax reform this Congress?

A: The tax-writing Senate Finance Committee is laying the groundwork to rewrite the federal tax code. If this effort comes off, it would be much bigger than the garden-variety legislative changes that take place from year to year. Since the last major overhaul 27 years ago, the nation's tax code today resembles an overgrown garden. Filing taxes takes more and more time and often more professional help every year. It's time to make the tax code fairer and simpler. It's also necessary to counteract the urge of some individuals in the nation's capital to raise taxes. Big spenders in Washington have big appetites. Instead of belt-tightening to make ends meet, they like to load Uncle Sam's plate with bigger helpings of taxpayer money. For example, President Obama is still not satisfied. He has called for even more tax increases on top of the ones he signed into law in January and on top of the large tax increases included in his health care reform law. Lifting the lid on taxes is a recipe for economic disaster. Raising rates on entrepreneurs and small business owners leaves less money in their bottom lines to invest, raise wages or hire new workers. Taking a bigger bite out of wage earners' paychecks leaves less money for households to pay their bills, buy cars and appliances, or put money away for college or retirement. As a senior member of the Finance Committee, I look forward to the opportunities that come with a clean slate. As the United States struggles to regain stronger footing in the global economy, the federal tax code needs to meet, not exceed, the fundamental budgetary needs of the federal government by sticking to strong principles of economic growth and job creation. When it comes to setting tax policy, Congress needs to stick to perhaps the most important rule of thumb for economic growth: Less is more. That goes double for the federal estate tax, which generally subjects American taxpayers to double taxation on income that Uncle Sam has already taxed.

Q: Do you see Congress finally repealing the federal estate tax once and for all?

A: The federal tax code burdens the taxpaying public with its complexity. Lawmakers must focus on tax policies that make the system fairer and simpler. Repealing the punitive estate tax on the nation's family-owned farms, ranches and businesses would be a good step in the right direction. After a farmer or business owner puts a lifetime of sweat equity, savings and investment into a family business, the federal estate tax slaps the next generation with an unaffordable burden upon the death of a loved one. It's been nearly 100 years since passage of the first federal estate tax in 1916. Those who support scaling back this tax had some success in the tax law of 2001. We phased out the estate tax for a time but we were unable to make full repeal permanent. Achieving full repeal will be difficult as some members of Congress, as well as President Obama, have advocated increasing the burden of the estate tax. But it's time to let this 20th century relic rest in peace once and for all. As a co-sponsor of the "Death Tax Repeal Act of 2013" introduced by Senator John Thune of South Dakota, I will work to give families more certainty and peace of mind so they don't have to sell off assets or lay off workers to pay what Uncle Sam considers his fair share within nine months of a loved one's funeral. Advocates of the federal estate tax believe wealth redistribution is good for America. To the contrary, the death tax kills wealth creation and puts at risk the transfer of family-owned businesses from one generation to the next. America was founded upon the principles of opportunity, ownership and prosperity. The federal estate tax runs counter to those principles by ripping the rug out from beneath those whose families worked a lifetime to climb America's ladder of opportunity so that the next generation may also realize the promises of the American dream.



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