Who pays the estate tax anyway? | Arkansas Blog

Who pays the estate tax anyway?

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A new report shows that 18 families, including the Waltons, are financing the campaign to repeal the estate tax.

Here in Arkansas, the repeal proponents try to convince farmers that the estate tax threatens the survival of their family farms. Turns out that's just not true.

18 families worth a total of $185.5 billion have financed and coordinated a 10-year effort to repeal the estate tax, a move that would collectively net them a windfall of $71.6 billion.

The report profiles the families and their businesses, which include the families behind Wal-Mart, Gallo wine, Campbell’s soup, and Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms. Collectively, the list includes the first- and third-largest privately held companies in the United States, the richest family in Alabama and the world’s largest retailer.

These families have sought to keep their activities anonymous by using associations to represent them and by forming a massive coalition of business and trade associations dedicated to pushing for estate tax repeal. The report details the groups they have hidden behind – the trade associations they have used, the lobbyists they have hired, and the anti-estate tax political action committees, 527s and organizations to which they have donated heavily. ...

Just more than one-fourth of one percent of all estates will owe any estate taxes in 2006. And the American Farm Bureau, a member of the anti-estate tax coalition, was unable when asked by The New York Times to cite a single example of a family being forced to sell its farm because of estate tax liability. ...

These super-rich families have spent millions in personal wealth and used their companies’ resources and lobbying power in repeated attempts to influence members of Congress to repeal the tax. They have financed groups who have launched multimillion-dollar attack ads against Republican and Democratic senators alike, including former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Olympia Snow (R-Maine), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Lincoln Chaffee (R-R.I.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

The stakes of the campaign are great, not only for the super-wealthy families, but for the public. If the families’ repeal bid succeeds, it will cost the U.S. Treasury a trillion dollars in the first decade – roughly what it would cost to provide health insurance for every uninsured person in the United States.

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