Letter: Estate tax not worth much in federal revenue

The Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Capitol dome on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photo Credit: AP

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Back when there was a debate over whether to repeal the estate tax, a very interesting dynamic occurred ["Fiscal cliff notes for the wary taxpayer," News, Dec. 15].

In surveys, if you asked the public if there should be an estate tax, people answered yes, that people with large estates should pay taxes. However, if you asked if there should be a "death tax," the answer was no, you shouldn't tax people when they die. These semantic differences also worked their way into the congressional debates.

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With regard to the tax itself, it has never been a major revenue raiser. If you take the 2009 statistics from the IRS website, only about 14,700 people paid a total of about $20.6 billion in estate taxes.

The numbers have gone down significantly for 2010 and 2011, as the exemption went from $3.5 million to $5 million per person.

While this amount is nothing to sneeze at, I have always felt that the estate tax was more for show than anything else. It looks good. With the fiscal cliff debate being from about $600 billion to more than $1 trillion, the debate here appears to be minimal.

Gary Aronowitz, Plainview

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