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Introduced Legislation to Shift Tax Burden Back to Billionaires

John Byrne

WASHINGTON - Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is sick of the super-rich avoiding estate taxes.

Thursday, he made good on his word: he today introduced legislation to
restore the estate tax on the wealthiest Americans, which he says would
bring in at least $264 billion in the next ten years to help reduce the
national debt.

"This legislation would ensure that the wealthiest
Americans in our country, millionaires and billionaires, pay their fair
share while exempting 99.7 percent of Americans from paying any estate
tax whatsoever," Sanders said in a release. "At a time when we have a
record-breaking $13 trillion national debt and a growing gap between
the very rich and everyone else, people who inherit multi-million and
billion dollar estates must not be allowed to avoid paying their fair
share in estate taxes."

Sander's release notes that the estate
tax was abolished this year "as a result of tax law changes signed into
law by President George W. Bush in 2001. For the first time since 1916,
heirs to multi-million and billion dollar fortunes may receive their
entire inheritance free of any federal taxes, a giveaway that will cost
the U.S. treasury at least $14.8 billion in lost revenue this year

"I get a little bit tired of being lectured by
Republicans for the deficit we are in," Sanders said -- asserting that
Bush-era Republicans "funded but failed to pay for wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan; tax breaks for the wealthy; a prescription drug bill
written by the pharmaceutical industry; and a $700 billion Wall Street

Among the legislation's highlights:

  • Exempt the first $3.5 million of an estate from federal taxation ($7
    million for couples), the same exemption that existed in 2009. That
    would leave 99.75 percent of all estates exempt from the federal estate
    tax next year.
  • Create a progressive rate so the super wealthy
    pay more. The tax rate estates valued between $3.5 million and $10
    million would be 45 percent, the same as the 2009 level. The rate on
    estates worth more than $10 million and below $50 million would be 50
    percent, and the rate on estates worth more than $50 million would be
    55 percent.
  • Include a billionaire's surtax of 10 percent.
    According to Forbes Magazine, there are only 403 billionaires in the
    United States with a collective net worth of $1.3 trillion. Clearly,
    the heirs to these multi-billion fortunes should be paying a higher
    estate tax rate than others.
  • Close estate and gift tax
    loopholes as President Obama proposed in his budget for next year. The
    White House estimated that closing the loopholes would generate at
    least $23.7 billion in revenue over 10 years.
  • Protect family
    farmers by allowing them to lower the value of their farmland by up to
    $3 million for estate tax purposes. The bill also would increase the
    maximum exclusion for conservation easements to $2 million. The
    non-partisan Tax Policy Center has estimated that only 80 small
    businesses and farm estates throughout the country paid an estate tax
    in 2009, affecting only three out of every 100,000 people who passed

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