A Lifetime of Taxes Is Enough

By Stephen Moore

October 24, 2017 4 min read

My father built a small business from scratch with years of sweat equity and many weeks and months away from home. He employed about 100 people, and by the end of his working years the business was highly successful. He became a millionaire. He lived the American dream. He sold a product that people wanted, provided a solid income for many families and gave lots of money to our church and numerous other charities. And every year he paid his taxes. Over the course of his lifetime, he paid millions of dollars in income taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, gas taxes and so on. He died two years ago at age 91.

Should people like my father have to surrender up to 50 percent of their life savings to the government upon death? Do we want to live in a country where half a family business, farm or ranch gets handed over to the IRS when the owner dies?

The GOP tax plan proposes to kill the death tax. Why? Because estate taxes put the entire American concept of the "family business" at risk.

I have met many people who literally sold the farm to pay the taxes. This hurts the economy. It incentivizes business owners to sell their companies and live lavishly during the retirement years so there is little left at their death for the government to snatch. Dying broke beats the taxman but is terrible for future generations who could keep building the business and hiring more workers.

Why would anyone who is 70 or 80 years old and a multimillionaire continue saving, re-investing to grow a family business or working if they can't turn their assets over to their kids or grandkids?

It would be one thing if the death tax actually raised real money for the government. But it doesn't. In 2014, the estate tax collected — hold on to your hats — roughly $19 billion, about 0.6 percent of all federal revenues.

Liberals counter that only a tiny percentage of Americans pay the tax. But a tax that collects $19 billion and costs the economy multiple times that amount of money in lost investment and complicated estate tax-planning schemes invented by estate-tax attorneys and accountants is a dumb tax.

George Soros put $18 billion, tax-free, into his foundation, which is run by his family and friends. Soros, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have all hidden their money in such foundations and won't pay a penny of the estate tax. You don't get rich by being stupid.

The death tax doesn't take money from billionaires; they have legions of tax and estate planners to find ways of getting around it. No, this tax is paid by self-made men, such as my father, who built this country. Where's the fairness in that?

Stephen Moore is a senior economic analyst with CNN. His latest book is "Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy." He served as a senior economic adviser to the Trump campaign. To find out more about Stephen Moore and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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