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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

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.

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