Estate Tax Briefings

A successful nonprofit briefing on the estate tax was held on June 6. A press briefing to release the results of a nationwide poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research will be held Wednesday, June 12.

AFET Estate Tax Briefing for Nonprofits

The briefing held by Americans for a Fair Estate Tax (AFET) on June 5, 2002 provided a wealth of information about the value and fairness of the estate tax in the United States and the need to reform—and not repeal—the tax. Over sixty people attended and the event highlighted how the unique resources and energy of the nonprofit community are being mobilized to counterbalance the multi-million dollar campaign pro-repeal advocates are conducting.

Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and Bob Van Heuvelen, Chief of Staff for Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND), discussed the loss of federal revenue from permanent repeal and the effect on the ability of the country to meet its priorities. Sen. Corzine spoke about repeal of the estate tax as “flying in the face of a meritocracy, a democracy, all the things this nation is about,” including the ideal that every American should have the opportunity to succeed. He noted that some reasonable reform measures might be needed to further protect truly small businesses and family farms, but emphasized that the benefits of permanent repeal would fall overwhelmingly to the very wealthiest few in the country. Sen. Corzine said that repeal would be good neither for the well-being of his own children, nor “for the betterment of the nation.” He concluded his speech with the question, “So, if it’s not fair, and it’s fiscally irresponsible, and doesn’t bring us together [as a nation] – why would we do it?”

Joel Friedman, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examined some of the most egregious misrepresentations of the estate tax propagated by pro-repeal advocates in a recently issued summary. At the top of this list is the idea that estate tax repeal won’t really cost the country very much. A recent Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) analysis of permanent repeal estimates the cost to be $56 billion in 2012, which skyrockets to nearly $750 billion in the 2nd decade – or just when the Baby Boomers will begin retiring. He further illustrated the importance of estate tax revenue by estimating that over the next 75 years, the revenue lost from estate tax repeal will equal approximately 40% of the projected Social Security shortfall over that period. The Center's full analysis reveals the misleading and inaccurate claims being made by proponents for repeal.

Among the other claims that the NFIB and others have made is that the estate tax destroys numerous small businesses every year. The reality is that since the exemption level is currently at $1 million and rising to $3.5 million, only about 3% of all estates paying an estate tax have a business that constitutes the majority of the estate’s assets. So, most of the “family-owned businesses” that will benefit from repeal of the estate tax will be those not-so-small family-owned businesses: for instance, the Mars candy company, Levi-Strauss, and the E & J Gallo Winery, to name a few of the not-so-small businesses that are affected by the estate tax.

The results of another key element of the AFET effort – a national poll conducted in May – will be released on Wednesday, June 12 at a national press briefing. The poll shows strong support for reform of the estate tax over permanent repeal. The poll results will be available on the Americans for a Fair Estate Tax website on Wednesday afternoon.

If you would like to get more involved in the work of Americans for a Fair Estate Tax, email We urge everyone to learn about this issue, email and call your Senators, and urge others to do so. Repeal of the estate tax will be raised in the Senate sometime this month, so it is important to act now.

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