WASHINGTON, April 18 – While 41 Senate Republicans recently introduced legislation to permanently repeal the estate tax – which would provide a $1.8 trillion tax giveaway to billionaires in America and would only provide relief to the top one-tenth of one percent – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, today introduced a progressive estate tax bill that would make sure that the wealthiest people in America pay their fair share.
Joining Sanders on The For the 99.5 Percent Act is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the Senate, while Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) today introduced the companion bill in the House. The legislation is also endorsed by Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of more than 420 national, state, and local endorsing organizations, including AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Patriotic Millionaires, and Public Citizen.
“Over and over again, Republicans in Washington have professed their deep concern about the national debt and yet virtually all of them have signed onto legislation that would provide a $1.8 trillion tax giveaway to billionaires by repealing the estate tax,” Sen. Sanders said. “How absurd is that? At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need to make sure that people who inherit over $3.5 million pay their fair share of taxes. We do not need to provide a huge handout to multi-millionaires and billionaires. It is unacceptable that working families across the country today are struggling to file their taxes on time and put food on the table, while the wealthiest among us profit off of enormous tax loopholes and giant tax breaks. The legislation that I am introducing today will begin to reform our rigged tax code that has benefitted the wealthy and powerful for far too long.”
The For the 99.5 Percent Act establishes a new progressive estate tax rate structure on the top 0.5 percent of Americans who inherit over $3.5 million in wealth. It also imposes a 45 percent tax rate on estates worth $3.5 million and a 65 percent tax rate on the value of an estate worth over $1 billion. This is not a radical idea. In fact, from 1941-1976, the top estate tax rate was 77 percent on estates worth more than $50 million.
This legislation would also end tax breaks for dynasty trusts, close other loopholes in the estate and gift tax, and provide protections for family farmers by allowing them to lower the value of their farmland by up to $3 million for estate tax purposes.
“For too long, the ultra-rich have abused our tax code to acquire enormous amounts of wealth while working Americans, especially those of color, fall further behind. The 50 wealthiest individuals in our country right now own more wealth than the poorest half of all Americans combined, while the poorest 40 percent of Americans have hardly any savings at all,” said Rep. Gomez. “Our legislation strengthens the estate tax and helps restore fairness and equity to our nation’s tax code. I’m proud to partner with Senator Sanders on this legislation to uplift America’s working class.”
“For years, billionaires and multi-millionaires have gotten away with paying little to nothing in taxes,” said Sen. Warren. “This legislation will help us fix our broken tax system by closing loopholes that the ultra-wealthy use to dodge paying their fair share. Congress should pass this bill so we can invest in working families and build a brighter future for all of our children.”
More than a century ago, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt fought for the creation of a progressive estate tax to reduce the enormous concentration of wealth that existed during the Gilded Age. Roosevelt’s efforts are even more relevant in today’s America where the billionaire class pays a lower effective tax rate than the working class.
Under this legislation, 99.5 percent of Americans would not owe a penny more in taxes. However, the families of all 735 billionaires in America – who have a combined net worth of more than $4.5 trillion – would owe up to $1 trillion more in additional estate taxes. In contrast, the Republican’s so-called “Death Tax Repeal Act” would provide these billionaires with a tax break of up to nearly $1.8 trillion while it would not provide one penny to 99.9 percent of families who inherit less than $12.92 million. For example:
- Under the Republican estate tax legislation, the Walton family, the owners of Walmart, would save up to $88 billion in estate taxes on their $220.9 billion fortune. In contrast, they would pay up to $55 billion more in taxes under Sanders’ legislation.
- Under the Republican estate tax legislation, the family of Elon Musk would save up to $72 billion in estate taxes on his $180 billion fortune. In contrast, his family would pay up to $45 billion more in taxes under Sanders’ legislation.
- Under the Republican estate tax legislation, the family of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, would save up to $46 billion in estate taxes on his $114 billion fortune. In contrast, his family would pay up to $28 billion more in taxes under Sanders’ legislation.
- Under the Republican estate tax legislation, the family of Warren Buffett would save up to $42 billion in estate taxes on his $106 billion fortune. In contrast, his family would pay up to $26 billion more in taxes under Sanders’ legislation.
According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, a previous version of the For the 99.5 Percent Act would raise $430 billion over its first 10 years of enactment.