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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cold Collect

Two parents lost their child in Queens earlier this week. She lived only an hour, but was still taxed $50 under the so-called "death tax" in New York. I suppose some people will do anything to close that New York state deficit...

Earlier this year, a tycoon died "conveniently" before an estate tax was returned, saving his heirs a fortune:
Textile tycoon Roger Milliken avoided the taxman upon his death almost a century after his grandfather lost a landmark legal fight with the U.S. government over sheltering a fortune from the estate tax.

The 95-year-old Milliken, chairman of Milliken & Co., one of the world’s largest closely held textile, chemical, and floor-covering manufacturers, died in a Spartanburg, South Carolina, hospice on Dec. 30, less than 48 hours before a temporarily lapsed federal tax on multimillion-dollar estates was to be reinstated.

The tragedies here are both very sad - one family will have to pay pittance for a child they never got to know, and another man made a choice to sacrifice himself because the timing of his taxes would be burdensome. (Either way, the death tax repulses me.)


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  1. The story took place in King County, Washington, not Kings County, New York and it was a $50 fee charged by the M.E., not a "death tax" as that term has come to be used interchangeably with "estate tax" or "inheritance tax".

  2. A question about the death tax? since congress exempts themselves from most laws they push upon its citizens, are they and their families also exempt from such a tax? Considering all the tax cheats we have in Washington, such as Charlie Chuckie Rangel who was responsible for writing our tax laws, I'm going to guess that many of them will try to cheat their way out of paying as they have done with paying most taxes. JMOP

  3. Every day and in every way, government shows its nuanced appreciation for the complexity of life. It adapts to all of us as individuals, and is knowledgeable, caring, and thoughtful in applying its absolute power. (sarc)

    Garland's law:  The government eventually charges a fee for everything useful which it does for the people. All other functions are paid for out of general tax revenues.

  4. I'm all for a 100% Estate Tax. If we could get away with that in lieu of any income taxes (a tax on production) this would be the best situation. In situations involving the untimely demise of parents, this is what life insurance is for. I can't understand why some people think their entitled to their parent's wealth simply by the fortune of their birth, and I don't understand why some conservatives call for the elimination of the Estate Tax as a signature issue.

    Listening to certain people going on about how some rich people had to sell off portions of inherited businesses fails to elicit any sympathy with me. Besides, we wouldn't be stuck with the Kennedies if we had a 100% death tax.

  5. @quiznilo. although I'm not at the income level where estate taxes are an issue, one of the things that I work for is a nest egg to leave for my children. That's something that *I* want, shouldn't I be able to direct the money I earn where I want it to go?

  6. foxmuldar wonders if Congressmen "try to cheat their way out of paying [death taxes] as they have done with paying most taxes." The level of cynicism he exhibits is certainly warranted. Just look at how the Kennedys handled the estates of Rose Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Teddy Kennedy, using deceitful means that few of us would be able to get away with.

    Wizbang's Jay Tea tells all in a 2005 post:
    "You see, there are "laws" and there are "laws." Certain laws are intended to promote Equality and Fairness and Goodness. If someone is already in favor of Equality and Fairness and Goodness, such as Ted Kennedy, then there's no need to apply those laws to him. He doesn't need to be punished into thinking Correctly; he already does.
    "That's why, when his sister-in-law, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, died, her children fought like hell in court to get their legacy declared as "income" (taxed at 40%) and not "inheritance" (taxed at 55%).
    "And that's why when Teddy's mother, Rose Kennedy, died, her estate was probated in much more inheritance-friendly Florida, where she had a home, and not in Massachusetts. Petty concerns about such trivialities as the law that requires estates be probated where the person had their legal home were just shrugged aside. Never mind that one has to actually LIVE in a state to be a resident; even though Rose hadn't left Massachusetts in about twelve years, her family insisted that in her heart, she just KNEW she was a Floridian and wanted her estate settled that way."

    A 2009 entry at AZBilliards tells us about Teddy's plan for protecting his own estate:
    "Ted Kennedy, to protect his estate from the tax man, recently "SOLD" the Kennedy Compound ... estimated value of $7,594,000.00 even in today's depressed market ... for $1.00.
    "This tax dodge allows Teddy to become qualified as a resident of Florida, he has never returned to the compound alive since his illness struck him down, where the estate can avoid the massive Massachusetts inheritance taxes."

    You can find many more links that discuss the Kennedy methods of avoiding death taxes with a simple search on Google.

    Just an aside: Once Teddy had himself declared a legal resident of Florida, wasn't he ineligible to run for or hold office in Massachusetts? I guess a little detail like that doesn't matter.

  7. @quiznilo

    If that were the case, and I could anticipate my death, I'd convert everything I owned into something combustible, and have it burned before I'd let the government have it.

    I can't understand why some people think their entitled to someone elses parent's wealth simply by the fortune of their nationality.

  8. @ruralcounsel, that's fine, and we're just talking estate taxation here, and not any other kind of taxes. I'm also not speaking of redistribution of wealth, just whatever is necessary to fund general government operations, and this is to offset or eliminate other forms of taxation, some of which rest on more dubious theories of 'fairness'.

    The government does indeed have a more substantial claim to your wealth upon your death, by fortune of your nationality, than do your progeny, by happenstance of their birth.