The Denver Post And The Death Tax

Warren Buffett, in addition to his admirable philanthropic endeavors, has also been trying to make sure that the Federal Government continues to be the recipient of your largess from beyond the grave:

The world's second-richest man, Warren Buffett, has asked Sen. Ken Salazar to vote against repealing the estate tax.

Buffett sent a letter to Salazar, D-Colo., the senator's spokesman, Drew Nannis, said. The multibillionaire Monday called on Congress not to repeal the tax.

...

Repealing the entire estate tax now would cost the government an estimated $550 billion to $700 billion through 2010. (emphasis added - ed.)

The Post gives no citation for this number, nor does it consider the additional wealth that will be created by businesses that can, well, stay in business after their owners die. And once again, note the assumption that it's the Government's money. If the estate tax comes back, it will be on estates over $1 million. Most estates over that number aren't just cash sitting around under mattresses. They're in businesses that employ people.

Larger businesses tend to be separate corporations, but the smaller businesses hit here are often partnerships or sole proprietorships that tend to struggle for cash. They would have to sell all or some of their assets just to pay the IRS. In all likelihood, they'll sell to larger companies. Even assuming that everyone stays employed - a bold assumption at best - these transfers concentrate wealth, they don't diffuse it.

The Post also fails to notice that Mr. Buffett hasn't been such a big fan of paying unnecessary taxes himself. The New York Sun comments:

Mr. Buffett’s decision to give away to charity Berkshire Hathaway stock valued at about $37 billion, much of it to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is the sort of bold move that has made so many Americans admirers of Mr.Buffett. As an avowed supporter of the estate tax, Mr. Buffett could have let the government take its share of his estate after he dies. But just as Mr. Buffett has accumulated his vast wealth without paying much personal income tax, he has found a way to avoid the tax man in this maneuver as well, even writing in his letter to Bill and Melinda Gates that a condition of the gift is that the foundation “must continue to satisfy legal requirements qualifying my gifts as charitable and not subject to gift or other taxes.”

(Hat tip: Best of the Web)

Cross-Posted at View From a Height