Who Pays the Estate Tax?

One issue animating the debate over the estate tax is who it is that pays the tax.  One White House advisor reportedly has a colorful answer for that.

One of the many changes that President Trump would like to see in the federal tax code is the elimination of the estate tax, which Democrats have traditionally opposed.  To get any tax reform passed, it appears that a few Democrats in Congress will be needed to vote for it.

White House advisor Gary Cohn recently met with a few Democratic senators to lobby them for tax reform efforts.

To try to convince them on the estate tax, Cohn is reported to have argued that “only morons pay it”, as CNBC discussed in "'Only morons pay the estate tax,' says White House's Gary Cohn."

The White House has denied that it is the exact language Cohn used. Regardless of the language, the sentiment behind the comment is not entirely wrong.

While it is not true in all cases, most of the time the estate tax can be avoided through estate planning.

The people whose estates end up paying the tax are those who have not done much estate planning or those who have other reasons for not avoiding the estate tax in their planning.

Of course, this does not bring the parties any closer together.

The White House argues that money spent to avoid the estate tax is an economic waste and, therefore, the tax should be eliminated.

Democrats argue that ways to avoid paying the tax should be eliminated.

Reference: CNBC (Aug. 29, 2017) "'Only morons pay the estate tax,' says White House's Gary Cohn."

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