Friday, February 25, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

ASSET: Americans Standing for the Simplification of the Estate Tax

We are proud to be part of a new organization that we have cofounded called ASSET: Americans Standing for the Simplification of the Estate Tax. We want to pay the estate tax, just change the way its collected.

While experts argue over the merits of the estate tax in what seems like a never-ending debate, there is a way to eliminate many of the problems it causes while preserving the revenues it generates. ASSET has developed an interim measure that will continue the concept of an estate tax while changing the way it is collected.

The present method of collecting the estate tax causes the liquidation of farms and businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs. The ASSET proposal will eliminate that problem.

We propose a “pay-as-you-go” solution in which taxpayers making approximately $1 million dollars a year or more pay their estate tax in an annual surcharge on their adjusted gross income (AGI) (instead of a tax only imposed upon their death). The total amount of the surcharge in a given year would be sufficient to replace all of the present revenue from both the estate and gift tax.

The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) in December 2009 calculated that a surcharge rate of 1.77% imposed on the AGI of the top 1% of taxpayers would equal the revenue generated by the estate and gift tax, based on the 2009 rates. Based on those statistics and the newly enacted estate tax rates, ASSET now believe it may be worth considering applying the surcharge only to taxpayers with an AGI of $1 million or more.

The surcharge is small because all loopholes are eliminated; and all targeted taxpayers pay. Taxpayers save the millions they’re currently paying to avoid the tax. The IRS saves expenses because the tax is collected on Form 1040.

The government nets more and taxpayers spend less, and no farms, businesses or jobs are lost.

Many experts have opined that the total capital gains taxes that will result from the sale of estate assets (with no step-up in value) would be much greater than the estate taxes that would have been collected. Because the surcharge equals the total revenue from the estate and gift tax, the excess capital gains taxes will represent a windfall to the government. It is worth considering whether some of this windfall could be “rebated” in future years to reduce the amount of the surcharge and it could also be used for deficit reduction. We will need the IRS to track the assets to be sure they collect the capital gain tax. And, it is worth considering how this proposal might address the question of how taxpayers might opt to undo their “irrevocable” trusts and other trusts created as part of an estate plan, which would generate the avalanche of economic activity and capital gains referenced above.