Death should not be a taxable event

Published 8:41 pm Saturday, December 5, 2009

As it stands, Americans across the country are forced when a family member dies to give a chunk of the family business or farm to the IRS — it’s called the death tax. The death tax is set to be repealed at the end of this year.

However, on Thursday, House Democrat leaders voted, without my support, to keep the death tax and make it permanent. The bill will give the federal government permanent authority to take 45 percent of everything a person leaves for his or her children.

The death tax is damaging and unfair. Here’s why:


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It’s bad economics. The death tax discourages business growth and prevents our economy from achieving investment potential. A study by the former non-partisan Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin shows that eliminating the death tax would allow small business investment to rise 3 percent annually and add 1.5 million jobs to our economy.

It discourages American principles of hard work and long-term investment. The core of the American Dream says that every citizen has a right to work hard to provide for his or her family and to pass on that foundation to future generations.

The death tax flies in the face of the American Dream and says that it is appropriate for the federal government to take half of everything a person owns as a punishment for success. Instead, it encourages meaningless consumption.

Hardworking families already pay a disproportionate amount of taxes to the federal government during their living years; it is simply wrong to tax them again when they die. In such difficult times, families not only cope with the loss of a loved one, but many are forced to sell their businesses or farms to pay the death tax.

Death should not be a taxable event. Instead of making the death tax permanent, we need to put it to rest for good. I’ve cosponsored H.R. 1960, which would permanently repeal the death tax. For more information, visit

J. Randy Forbes is the U.S. Congressman representing the 4th Congressional District in Virginia, which encompasses Suffolk. His Washington office can be reached by calling 202-225-6365 or by sending an email to