NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Death Tax Hits Women Hardest

July 20, 2000

Congress has voted to repeal the estate tax. But President Clinton will probably veto the measure. Before he does so, however, he might want to consider the evidence that women -- not men -- are the chief victims of the tax. The primary reason is that they live longer than men. And when a married man dies with taxable assets, they can go to his wife tax free.

Here are some highlights on an analysis conducted by Internal Revenue Service economists Barry Johnson and Jacob Mikow.

  • Of those people required to file estate tax returns in 1995, men lived to an average age of 75 and women lived to an average of 81.
  • While women accounted for only 45 percent of estate tax filers that year and owned only 40 percent of the value of estates, they paid 55 percent of all estate taxes collected.
  • Of men who died with sufficient assets to owe estate taxes, 65 percent were married and their heirs paid the government an average tax of $70,000.
  • By contrast, 62 percent of women who died with such asset levels were widows and their families' average tax bill was $294,000 -- a difference of $224,000.

So one of the perversities of the present system is that women are often advised to spend their money or give it away so as to get within the $675,000 estate tax limit.

Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth (American Enterprise Institute), "Left With the Bill: Women, Not Men, Carry the Largest Estate Tax Burden," Investor's Business Daily, July 20, 2000.


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