The estate tax or “inheritance tax” is levied upon the transfer of the taxable assets of a deceased person. First adopted in the nineteen century as temporary taxes to fund wars, the Federal estate tax in its current form has been on the books since 1916 as a vital instrument of progressive taxation. The tax rate and exemption levels have changed over the years. A number of states also have estate taxes. Recent attempts at repeal of the federal tax have been prevented but tax rates are lower and exemption levels higher.
Cry Wolf Quotes
We believe that a tax system designed to penalize the small group of wealthy individuals for the benefit of the others injures all groups by diminishing the incentive to productive effort, thereby reducing the total output available for distribution, which really constitutes the national income. … We oppose this Federal tax program on the ground that high estate and inheritance taxes tend to dissipate the aggregations of wealth on which industry depends for its capital and on which the government depends for a substantial part of its revenue under the present income taxes.
In considering a revision of estate taxes, there should be eliminated any question of levying the tax as a means of punishing wealth or as in some way for the social good of our civilization…The theory upon which this country was founded is equality of opportunity. So long as a man uses his abilities within the bounds of the moral sense of the community, monetary success is not a crime, but on the contrary adds to the total wealth of the country and to an increase in the standard of living as a whole.
[The estate tax] represents a real tax on capital, and such a tax is necessarily unsound and unscientific because it tends to defeat itself as a revenue producer.
If America had not been free to any man to make his fortune within the law and within his abilities, we would not be the great nation we are today. To destroy incentive by excessive taxation is to lessen the production and the prosperity of the country.
Related Laws and Rules
Estate Tax Basics
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains the reality of the much-mythologized estate tax.
Conservative Commentator Examines the History of Right-Wing Tax Cut Hypocrisy
Hard right-wingers fear-monger in the face of tax increases of both Republican and Democratic administations.
Tax Cuts on the Rich Don't Spur Economic Growth
The Center for American Progress takes apart supply side myths.