An historic vote in the House today will pave the way for the eventual repeal of the oppressive estate tax. The vote was 279-136 to repeal the "death tax" over a period of 10 years. Sixty-five Democrats voted in favor of this bill, enough to override a projected veto by President Clinton.
The tax affects about 2% of Americans, many of whom are owners of farms and family businesses. It is estimated that the repeal of the tax will cost the government approximately $50 billion per year. Congressmen argue that this money will be covered by the projected federal surplus.
The federal estate tax ranges from 18% to 55% on estates valued at more than $675,000, and some estates are subject to an additional 5% surtax. Estates that are passed through, tax-free, to surviving spouses, are subject to tax on value that exceeds $1.35 million, or twice the single amount. Some special rules provide for greater exemptions to estates containing family farms and small businesses, and some of these types of estates have a longer period of time over which to pay the tax.
Representatives of minority groups including African-Americans and Hispanics support the repeal of the tax, claiming that businesses their constituents are trying to build are threatened by the tax. Some Democrats support a reduction rather than a repeal of the tax, offering special exemptions to farmers and small business owners, and lowering, but not ending the tax for the wealthiest Americans.