Support The Responsible Estate Tax Act

Urge Your Senators to Co-Sponsor The Responsible Estate Tax Act, S.3533

Dear Friend of United for a Fair Economy,

Senators Sanders (I-VT), Harkin (D-IA), and Whitehouse (D-RI) have just proposed a strong, fair, and fiscally responsible estate tax bill. The Responsible Estate Tax Act (outlined below) would make the wealthy pay their fair share, while ensuring that the estate tax will not affect the middle class, small businesses, or family farmers. Call your Senators now and urge them to co-sponsor the Sanders/Harkin/Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act S.3533 so that we can begin the path towards a fairer and more responsible tax system.

1. Call toll-free 800-830-5738 or 202-224-3121 (Capitol switchboard) and ask to be connected to your two US Senators, or call their direct lines. Then, ask for the staff person who handles taxes, or tell the person who answers the phone:

  • My name is _____________. I am a constituent.
  • I am calling to urge the Senator to co-sponsor S.3533 the Sanders/Harkin/Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act .
  • If we are going to get out of this recession, we need to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s time to restore the progressive tax system that made our country strong, beginning with a robust estate tax. The Sanders/Harkin/Whitehouse The Responsible Estate Tax Act is an important step on the road to an economic recovery that benefits all Americans.
  • This bill is a common sense solution. It balances the desire to protect small businesses and farms with the assurance that the super-wealthy give back and support the country that made their prosperity possible.

Email me (don't reply to this email), Lee Farris, at [email protected] to let me know what you heard and how it went. If you get a reply email or a letter from your legislator, please send me a copy.

2. Write a letter to the editor. Find the editor's email from the Contact the Media box. Use the talking points above and connect your letter to any story about taxes or deficits. Please send me a copy of the letter you submit.

3. Share this alert with everyone you know. Please forward this email, post it on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and everywhere else you communicate.

Thanks for taking action,

Lee Farris
Senior Organizer on Estate Tax Policy
United for a Fair Economy
617-423-2148 x133
[email protected]


  • Exempts the first $3.5 million of an estate from federal taxation ($7 million for couples), the same exemption that existed in 2009. Doing this would mean that 99.75 percent of all estates would be exempted from the federal estate tax in 2011 alone.
  • Includes a progressive rate structure so that the super-wealthy pay more. The rate for the value of the estate above $3.5 million and below $10 million would be 45 percent, the same as the 2009 level. The rate on the value of estates above $10 million and below $50 million would be 50 percent, and the rate on the value of estates above $50 million would be 55 percent.
  • Includes a billionaire's surtax of 10 percent. The bill also imposes a 10 percent surtax on the value of an estate above $500 million ($1 billion for couples). According to Forbes Magazine, there are only 403 billionaires in the United States with a collective net worth of $1.3 trillion. Clearly, the heirs to these multi-billion fortunes should be paying a higher estate tax rate than others.
  • Closes all of the estate and gift tax loopholes requested in President Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 budget. These loophole closers include requiring consistent valuation for transfer and income tax purposes; a modification of rules on valuation discounts; and a required 10-year minimum term for Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATS). OMB has estimated that closing these loopholes that benefit the super-wealthy, would raise at least $23.7 billion in revenue over 10 years.
  • Protects family farmers by allowing them to lower the value of their farmland by up to $3 million for estate tax purposes. Under current law, the value of farmland can be reduced up to $1 million for estate tax purposes under 2032(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (Special Use Valuation). The bill increases this level to $3 million and indexes it to inflation.
  • Benefits farmers and other landowners by providing estate tax relief for conservation easements. The bill provides tax relief to farmers and other landowners by amending estate tax rules for conservation easements through an increase in the maximum exclusion amount to $2 million and increasing the base percentage to 60 percent.

This legislation would exempt over 99.7% of Americans from paying any estate tax whatsoever, while ensuring that the wealthiest Americans in our country pay their fair share.


The future of the federal estate tax is still up in the air. Due to the Bush Tax Cuts, there is no estate tax in 2010. However, it will return in 2011 with a $1 million exemption and a 55% rate. It is likely that the Senate will act on the estate tax by the end of the year. This is creating a pressure cooker of debate over what the estate tax should look like in 2011.

President Obama proposed keeping the 2009 estate tax, with a $3.5 million exemption per spouse and 45% rate. That loses about half as much revenue as full repeal.

As a stronger alternative to the Obama proposal, UFE has supported H.R. 2023, The Sensible Estate Tax Act, sponsored by Rep. McDermott, (D-WA)., which would set the exemption level at $2 million per spouse, and establish progressive tax rates of 45% to 55%. Because the McDermott bill has not been introduced in the Senate, UFE also supports the Sanders/Harkin/Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act.

Senators Lincoln (D-AR) and Kyl (R-AZ) proposed a dangerously weak estate tax that includes a $5 million dollar exemption per individual and a 35% tax rate. This proposal would cost our cash strapped nation additional tens of billions of dollars in the coming years and would do so to the exclusive benefit of multi-millionaires.

America quite literally can’t afford the kind of estate tax that Lincoln and Kyl propose. Senators Sanders, Harkin, and Whitehouse have proposed a viable solution. Call your Senators as soon as possible and urge them to co-sponsor S.3533 the Sanders/Harkin/Whitehouse Responsible Estate Tax Act and help bring fair taxation back to America!

P.S. Remember to call toll-free 800-830-5738 or 202-224-3121 (Capitol switchboard) to support a strong estate tax, and ask to be connected to both your US Senators, or call their direct lines.

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