Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Death Tax Conflict of Interests

The death tax, also known as the Federal Estate Tax, has been getting a lot of media attention lately. For those unfamiliar with the death tax, it is essentially a tax levied on the transfer of a taxable estate usually following a person’s death. As part of President’s 2001 tax cuts, the death tax was set to slowly die off and eventually be completely removed by December 31, 2010. However, unless the next President renews Bush’s tax cuts the prior law will reassert itself the next day, January 1st, 2011. Therefore theoretically some one who dies in December 2010 would pay no estate taxes whatsoever, while some one who passes away 24 hours later could have as much as a 55% tax levied on their estate.

Warren Buffet has been one of the strongest supporters of continuing the estate tax, even appearing before the Senate. Which seems odd considering Buffet is worth an estimated $52 billion, meaning when he dies his estate will be hit with some sort of estate tax. So why would he support the estate tax? The truth lies in Buffet’s business dealings. He has major investments in companies that sell life insurance and directly profits from the continued estate taxes.

When people want to avoid loosing large portions of their estate to the death tax, they often put their wealth into life insurance policies. Therefore once they pass the designated heirs are paid the life insurance funds without having to pay any taxes. Therefore Mr. Buffet has a huge conflict of interest and his insurance companies stand to directly profit from a continued death tax. I hope that the Senate will consider this information the next time Mr. Buffet testifies.

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