Written By: Staff, Illinois News Network
With Republicans in control of the Capitol and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., an Illinois congressman is heading the committee that he says will start the process of repealing the federal “death tax.”
Suburban Chicago Representative Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, has been appointed to the subcommittee that will begin the process of repealing the federal estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer taxes. The estate tax takes up to a 40 percent tax on estates valued at more than $5.49 million.
Supporters of the tax say it’s about fairness, but critics claim it penalizes a tragic event and too often forces family businesses or farms to be sold off — just to pay the taxes.
“There’s something immoral, in my view, about the (estate) tax,” Roskam said. “Death has become the taxable event. In our plan, we totally abolish it.”
Contrary to claims by some progressive economists, Roskam said the death tax touches more than just the wealthy.
“It’s been the bane of small businesses and family farms for decades,” he said. “This has become an everyday sort of thing for all sorts of families in the United States.”
“In southern Illinois, you don’t have the Hollywood starlets and the others that Democrats say are getting a break. What you have is farmers,” said U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville. “You’ve got tool and die manufacturers and (farm) implement dealers. These are folks, in today’s dollars, that can bust that threshold from a new harvester.”
Shimkus said that farmers are often hit the hardest.
“As land values go up, the producer doesn’t see that increase in wealth,” he said. “These are real stories. There are farms that have had to be sold. There are businesses that have had to be shut down and divested just to pay this death tax.”
According to the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, an acre of high-quality farmland in Illinois averages $11,737. Less than 470 acres of farmland at that price would trigger the federal estate tax at 2017 levels. And that’s not considering the valuation of machinery, structures, livestock or other assets.
“As someone who grew up in a family funeral home, I saw the grief families faced following the death of a parent,” said U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano. “It’s simply wrong for the federal government to send a bill to grieving loved ones and break up their family’s legacy. The death tax hurts family farms and small businesses — and it’s bad tax policy. Families should not be punished for wanting to see their children prosper and carry on the family business. It’s time for the death tax to die.”
A bill that would repeal the federal death tax was introduced two weeks ago. Illinois also has an estate tax that calculates up to 29 percent of anything worth more than $4 million, using table examples from the Illinois Attorney General’s website.