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Death Tax Repeal: Window of Opportunity

A bi-partisan movement in Congress is giving new optimism to the increasingly large coalition seeking repeal of U. S. estate taxes. “This summer offers an unprecedented window of opportunity to kill the death tax,” says Harold Apolinsky, who chairs the American Family Business Institute. An estate planning attorney who vows to put himself out of business, Apolinsky has campaigned against the estate tax for over two decades.

A parade of senators and representatives recently spoke about the death tax with several score business leaders, academics, and public policy experts. Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) called death tax repeal his “top priority tax cut” because doing so would have “the most significant benefit to my community.” Representative Steve Largent (R-Okla) called the death tax “not just wrong, it’s immoral.”

Senator John Kyl (R-Ariz) described a new bill that he will introduce with Senator John Kerry (D-Neb) which would repeal death and gift taxes but impose a capital gains tax when inherited assets are sold. Kyl called the death levy “the most inefficient and destructive tax” and noted “death is not voluntary – it should not be a taxable event.” He also cited Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who has urged that tax cuts made possible by budget surpluses be devoted to reducing marginal income tax rates, reduced capital gains tax rates, and elimination of the estate tax. At the very least, Senator Kyl, said “making a larger exclusion is not the answer, we must scale down estate tax rates.” Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) warned, however, “total repeal is going to be extremely difficult.”

The Washington meeting was convened by Frank A. Blethen, fourth generation publisher of the Seattle Times and co-sponsored by the Newspaper Association of America and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. Chamber representative Lonnie Taylor called death tax repeal his organization’s “top priority” and warned that repeal advocates should be “careful not to accept a mild solution.”

 

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