Some super rich say: Tax my estate, please

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"Some high-profile, high net-worth folks on Wednesday called on Congress to impose a 'strong' estate tax going forward.

'Our country is on an unsustainable fiscal path. [Revenue from an estate tax can] fund deficit reduction, additional public investment, or added assistance to those affected by the economic crisis,' said Robert Rubin, who served as Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration and more recently as chairman of Citigroup.

Moreover, Rubin added, 'our nation has always held itself out as a meritocracy and a land of opportunity, and an estate tax helps avoid accumulation of inherited economic and political power that is antithetical to this historical vision of our society.'

Rubin was joined by former hedge fund manager Julian Robertson, Walt Disney's grand-niece Abigail Disney and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka on a call organized by liberal group United for a Fair Economy. [...]

What next for the estate tax: The debate is made more complex by growing concern over the country's fiscal situation given the economic slowdown and the approach of unsustainable spending by the end of the decade.

The individuals who spoke out on Wednesday are advocating for an estate tax that is equal to or stronger than what was in place in 2009. [...]

Those who support an estate tax say, among other things, that it bolsters charitable giving, since making bequests is a tax-deductible event and reduces the size of one's taxable estate.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have called on billionaires to become uber-philanthropists by giving away at least half of their net worth to charity. Doing so would substantially reduce the taxes their heirs would owe and therefore greatly reduce Uncle Sam's take.

'It's a wonderful idea. But the nonprofit sector can't do what the government does,' said Disney, who runs the Daphne Foundation. She noted that directing money to a given cause is worthy but no substitute for putting money into a communal pot that the government can use to perform vital functions that no charity does -- like provide infrastructure and defense.

'What you do around estate taxes should not be to avoid paying your fair share,' she said."

Read the full column by Jeanne Sahadi on

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