Future of the estate tax up in the air as Sen. Thune looks for full repeal

Sen. Thune (R-SD) says he would like to see a full repeal of the Estate Tax.
Sen. Thune (R-SD) says he would like to see a full repeal of the Estate Tax. (GRAYDC)
Published: Nov. 15, 2017 at 3:59 PM EST

There is an ongoing effort in Washington to allow American families to keep more of their money, but some say its aim is to help the wealthy. As Senators mull over legislation that would overhaul the tax code, Senator John Thune (R-SD) says there are provisions that do not go far enough in eliminating taxes, like the estate tax. Thune says the tax needs to go.

“I’m for repealing it entirely. I think it’s an unfair tax,” said Thune.

The estate tax taxes an inheritance at around 40 percent if an individual’s estate is worth more than $5.49 million. The new GOP plan raises that number to $11 million.

“It reduces the number of people who are impacted by it but doesn’t repeal it entirely,” said Thune.

He says raising the threshold to $11 million is a good start, but does not go far enough. He says it is a tax that hurts family operations and their ability to remain sustainable. He says these individuals have been taxed their whole lives, so why add more after death?

“It’s about fairness. It’s about good tax policy, and it’s about getting rid of a tax that is frankly unjust,” said Thune.

Supporters of the estate tax say the revenue it generates is vital. By exempting those under the $11 million minimum, they say American projects and programs will take a hit.

“This money can be used to pay for Medicaid, to strengthen Medicare, pay for roads, bridges, infrastructure,” said Hunter Blair, a budget analyst at the Economic Policy Institute.

He says the GOP tax plan is designed to help the wealthy. He says the current estate tax exemption level is already too high.

“Raising the exemption level, more of a give away to the richest estates, it doesn’t seem like a good idea,” said Blair.

If the Senate passes its tax reform package, they will meet with the House to finalize the future of the estate tax.