NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

In New Economy, Death Tax Is An Anachronism

July 13, 2000

The House of Representatives has voted to repeal the federal estate tax and it appears the Senate will follow the House's lead. President Clinton, however, has vowed to veto the measure even though members of his own party support repeal.

The soaring values of stocks and real estate have turned many Americans into paper millionaires -- while Americans who are not quite there yet still have aspirations.

  • On the West Coast, housing prices have risen enough to transform a modest house into a taxable estate -- prompting nearly half of California's House Democrats to come out for repeal last month.
  • In 1997, the tax was imposed on 47,596 estates -- representing about 2.1 percent of the 2.3 million Americans who died that year.
  • The average estate-tax bill was roughly $430,000 -- and more than 40 percent of those were estates valued at between $600.000 and $1 million.

Political opinion analysts have been described as "dumbfounded" to learn that even Americans of modest means -- many making under $30,000 a year -- view the tax as unfair and support repeal.

A Gallup poll taken last month found that 60 percent of Americans favor eliminating the estate tax -- even though only 17 percent feel they "would personally benefit." Observers say a new political day has dawned when average Americans worry about being fair to the rich.

Source: Jacob M. Schlesinger and Nicholas Kulish, "As Paper Millionaires Multiply, Estate Tax Takes a Public Beating," Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2000.


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