NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Environmental Implications Of Estate Tax

April 22, 1999

Those who would repeal the estate tax are making the argument that it does considerable environmental mischief. If a family must sell their deceased parents' farm to pay estate duties -- which is quite common -- the land could be opened up for development, destroying habitat for wild species.

The federal estate tax is "highly regressive" because "it encourages the destruction of ecologically important land in private ownership," says Michael Bean, a wildlife specialist at the Environmental Defense Fund.

  • Except for the first $625,000, an estate -- including financial holdings, land and other assets -- is taxed at a rate of up to 55 percent.
  • For many "land-rich and cash-poor rural Americans," subdividing or developing inherited land is the only way to satisfy the tax man.
  • The average annual household income for a tree farmer is under $50,000, according to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.
  • Yet the average tree farm has a book value of $2 million or more.

So when a tree farmer dies, there is simply no way for his family to pay the estate tax without clearing timber or selling off land.

Source: Jonathan H. Adler (Competitive Enterprise Institute), "Repeal the Death Tax for Mother Earth," Investor's Business Daily, April 22, 1999.


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