Estate Tax Debate Heats as Billionaires Pass On

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"The question of death and taxes has risen to the fore in Washington as the demise of prominent billionaires has underscored a fluke which allows big estates to escape taxes, but only for this year.

Highlighting the conundrum has been the death of wealthy Americans including oil tycoon Dan Duncan and New York Yankees baseball owner George Steinbrenner, who can pass on their fortunes to heirs with no taxes. Duncan's fortune was estimated at nine billion dollars and Steinbrenner's at 1.1 billion by Forbes magazine. [...]

Some activists say the estate tax is progressive because it distributes wealth from the richest; but critics deride it as a "death tax" and claim it hurts farms and family businesses when an owner dies. [...]

Some wealthy Americans have been supporting a new estate tax, even if it may cost them a hefty sum.

A group of millionaires and heirs to major fortunes joined a call in July by United for a Fair Economy, a group fighting economic inequality, for a new estate tax.

Among those joining the call were hedge fund manager Julian Robertson and Abigail Disney, grandniece of Walt Disney. [...]"

Read the full AFP column by Rob Lever on Google News

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