Friday, November 03, 2017

The Estate Tax

PA has a small estate tax with no exemption. This is bad. It means that every heir has to deal with it, even if the inheritance is tiny. When my mom died I got nasty forms from the state like 3 weeks later telling me I had 30 days to respond or else (exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea). A tiny amount of money was involved. Really tiny amount. I didn't care about paying the taxes, I just wasn't in the mood to deal with one more thing. If it had a been a bit more complicated, involving property and other things, I probably would have lost my shit. So, you know, yay estate tax exemption. We can argue about how big it should be, but the concept is sound. It isn't worth bugging people over what can potentially be a complex accounting over a small amount of actual money (in my situation it was simple, but still).

What most people don't get about the estate tax is that overall it exists (in principle) to *make things simpler* for the heirs. It substitutes having to calculate and pay capital gains on every single asset with one simple tax. It essentially exempts the heirs from having to pay that capital gains tax, resets the basis value of all of those assets, and charges them a flat rate on the value. A big exemption (as is currently the case) is a gift. It wipes out the capital gains tax for all of those assets.

Repealing the estate tax entirely, as currently proposed, means that as long as assets are never sold by the living, *capital gains taxes will never be paid on those assets.* Dynasties can accumulate wealth forever and never pay any capital gains taxes.

The "death tax" isn't really an additional tax, it's a tax simplifier. Take it away without forcing people to pay the actual capital gains tax, and you have gotten rid of capital gains taxes for the super rich.