Just nine American families could dodge $25.7 billion in taxes, and perhaps as much as $54.7 billion, if the estate tax were repealed. Half of these families have spent more than a million dollars apiece lobbying Congress to repeal the tax between 2012 and the first quarter of 2015.
A frequently used argument in support of the bill was that repeal is necessary to save family farms and small businesses. However, few, if any, family farms would be subject to the estate tax. Only an estimated 0.2 percent of American estates are subject to the tax, and rules give farmers and small businesses more time to pay the tax. In fact, only 660 taxable estates included farm assets, and the average value of those estates was $2.8 million, far below the level at which those assets are exempt from the tax. It is the nation’s richest of the rich who stand to lose from the tax.
“Like a zombie, the myth of the estate tax killing small businesses and family farms refuses to die,” said Susan Harley, deputy director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and co-editor of the report. “Given the mounting public pushback to income inequality in this country, it’s not surprising that the nation’s richest families are hiding behind that false argument since they stand to avoid tens of billions of dollars in taxes if the tax were repealed.”
The families behind the eight companies pushing to repeal the tax include the Mars, Wegman, Cox, Taylor, Van Andel, DeVos, Bass, Schwab and Hall families. The Mars and Wegman families alone, who have a combined net worth of more than $63 billion, spent more than $3.5 million to lobby solely for the repeal of the estate tax during the time period studied.
“The lengths to which these billionaire families will go to avoid paying their fair share of taxes is appalling… these billionaires are investing their money in high-priced lobbyists whose sole purpose is to help the super-rich get even richer.” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness.