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Must-Read: “Bring Back the Estate Tax Now” in WSJ


In today’s Wall Street Journal, Robert Rubin and Julian Robertson make some compelling arguments for restoring the federal estate tax (in “Bring Back the Estate Tax Now”).

Below are some excerpts from their op-ed.  We’ve made some similar points here and here.

“With a host of other issues behind it, Congress is finally turning its attention to the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. But there is one tax issue that should have long since been addressed: the federal estate tax. That tax expired at the end of last year, and there have been no estate taxes levied this year. If a new estate tax is not enacted as soon as Congress returns from its August recess, this void will continue until the end of the year…

“We both believe that the estate tax should be a component of any federal tax system. Our government is always going to collect and rely on tax revenues to pay for the activities that our citizens want and need government to perform. A key criterion in choosing taxes is to have the least negative impact on economic activity. The estate tax, in our opinion, meets that test…

“An estate tax can provide revenue—with little, if any, adverse supply-side economic impact—to fund deficit reduction, additional public investment or added assistance to those affected by the economic crisis. Used for public investment that has a rapid spend out, or applied to assistance for economically displaced citizens, the net effect will be to increase demand. That's because roughly 100% of the funds would be spent, while part of any large inheritance is highly likely to be used for savings or debt repayment. And either deficit reduction or public investment will better position our country for future economic success…

“Failure to restore a permanent and strong estate tax for this year has already cost billions of dollars in federal revenue. But there is still time for Congress to take action for the current year. By acting immediately, Congress can, at a minimum, solve the revenue problem the lapse has created for the remainder of the year. It could also consider going further by making the change apply from the beginning of this year.”