Next year, the federal death tax — otherwise known as the estate tax — will be phased out entirely. It will be gone. But it won’t stay gone.
This phase-out was part of tax cuts Congress passed in 2001. The death of death taxes should have been permanent. After all, meeting the Grim Reaper is tough enough as it is. As you’re about to expire, do you really want to ponder how 55 percent of what should go to your heirs will be confiscated as soon as your coffin goes into the ground? It’s enough to make you want to skip dying altogether.
Unless Congress acts, come 2012 the death tax will pop back into life, as ravenous as it ever was at a full 55 percent. What will happen as the previous year draws to a close? In a Newsweek column archly entitled “Death, Republican Style,” Jacob Weisberg notes that rich elderly people will have an incentive to die by December 31, 2011. Their kids will have an incentive to “turn off respirators in time for the deadline.” Though morbid and sorta sordid, he has a point.
So what’s the solution? I mean, aside from vilifying the GOP for the political compromise leading to this end game? Weisberg is mute. But if his concern for the elderly is genuine, he could start by urging Congress’s Democratic majority to kill the death tax for good. Then we’d all want to live!
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.