Wealthy Individuals Call on Congress to Strengthen Estate Tax Before Holiday Recess



  • Lee Farris, UFE Estate Tax Policy Coordinator, 617-423-2148 x133 or 617-835-7725; [email protected]
  • Brian Miller, UFE Executive Director, 617-423-2148 x111; [email protected]
  • Shonna Carter and David Lerner, Riptide Communications, 212-260-5000
  • Audio playback of Tuesday's press conference can be heard Friday at 800-642-1687, conference ID: 47047686


On Heels of House Vote, Bill Gates, Sr., Mutual Fund Founder John Bogle, Richard Rockefeller
Join United for a Fair Economy to Urge the Senate to Act before Tax Expires

Boston, MA, December 15, 2009 – On the heels of a recent House vote to extend the current estate tax, wealthy individuals, including Bill Gates Sr.; Vanguard Fund founder John Bogle; the great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, Richard Rockefeller; along with Anna Burger of the national labor union, SEIU, are calling on the Senate to act before the holiday recess to strengthen the estate tax. If the Senate doesn't act, there will be no estate tax in 2010.

The high profile individuals, organized by the national nonprofit United for a Fair Economy (UFE), say weakening the estate tax or letting it disappear will result in significant losses in revenue for the federal government. This revenue supports the vital public structures and systems — transportation and energy infrastructure, education and healthcare, among others — that are the foundation of broad-based prosperity and economic stability. "In making the 2009 estate tax cut permanent, the House of Representatives would give a huge $391 billion tax-break to the wealthiest 1% of Americans over ten years, at a time when economic inequality has skyrocketed," states Lee Farris, UFE's Estate Tax Policy Coordinator. "That's why it's so important that a group of wealthy individuals, the very beneficiaries of this massive tax giveaway, are standing with one of our nation's largest unions and calling for a stronger estate tax."

Anna Burger of SEIU adds, "Consider a wealthy family with two children.  Under the current law, each child could inherit $3.5 million, tax free. That means each child would receive more, tax free, than the average worker would earn in two lifetimes. And the worker would be paying taxes on their earnings. Each of these children would receive more, tax-free, than 240 minimum wage workers would receive in a year."

The US House of Representatives recently cast a 225-200 vote in favor of Rep. Earl Pomeroy's estate tax proposal, which makes 2009 estate tax law permanent, with a $3.5 million exemption ($7 million for married couples), and a 45% tax rate. If the Senate agrees, the result would be a loss of $391 billion over the 10 years starting in 2012. If no vote is taken this year, the estate tax will disappear on January 1, 2010, and then revert to a $1 million exemption per spouse with a 55% rate in 2011.

UFE supports Rep. Jim McDermott's Sensible Estate Tax Act, HR 2023, which represents a middle ground between the 2009 and 2011 laws. McDermott's bill would raise $31 billion more in federal revenue over 10 years than the House bill, while improving the tax by indexing it for inflation and rebating estate tax payments to the states.

Bill Gates, Sr. states, "No one accumulates a fortune without the help of our society's investments. How much wealth would exist without America's unique property rights protections, public infrastructure, and academic institutions? We should celebrate the estate tax as an "economic opportunity recycling" program, where previous generations made investments for us and now it's our turn to pass on the gift. Strengthening the estate tax is important to our democracy."

John C. Bogle, founder and former CEO of The Vanguard Group says, "To me, passing a stronger estate tax is a matter of ethics, of responsibility, of pride in citizenship, and it's the right fiscal choice for our country." He adds, "I don't ever forget, as do some of my colleagues, that I benefited from a lot of business incentives and tax laws as I was building Vanguard Group to what it is today, and I owe some of that back."

In addition to the spokespeople at today's event, UFE has gathered over 2,000 signatures from high-wealth individuals across the country who expect to pay the estate tax, yet support its preservation as a matter of principle and fiscal responsibility.

United for a Fair Economy (UFE) is a national organization that works to promote more broadly shared prosperity and an end to extreme inequalities of wealth and income. Through UFE's Responsible Wealth project, high net worth individuals like the ones in today's press conference help to support progressive tax policies and promote corporate accountability.


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