Republican Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota is one of the negotiators trying to reconcile the House and Senate tax bills. No doubt House Speaker Paul Ryan views her as a strong voice for estate tax repeal, because of her personal story of how her farming family struggled to pay the tax.
The House bill would abolish the estate tax, a levy on the intergenerational transfer of immense wealth. The Senate version retains the tax but doubles the wealth exempted from the tax, to $22 million for a family.
Congressional Republicans and their backers have painted the estate tax as a major burden on the nation’s ranchers and farmers. Yet it’s the heirs of multimillionaires and billionaires who actually pay it.
Noem perpetuates the “estate tax hurts farmers” argument using her life experience. The story she tells, however, does not line up with some very basic tenets of the tax code. Now, 23 years later, it is high time to get the facts. It’s also an important time to understand just who is subject to the estate tax and what its repeal really means.