Republicans in Congress recently revealed their proposal for tax reform, calling for the elimination or reduction of the federal estate tax, which is often misunderstood, but critically important for our nation’s finances.
The estate tax only applies to estates worth more than $5,500,000 for an individual, and $11 million for a couple—effecting only 1 in 500 families!
And the tax is only applied to amounts above $11 million.
What the GOP is proposing is a major tax break for the children of rich parents. These heirs, my children included, would pay zero taxes on their windfall if the estate tax is repealed.
Eliminating the estate tax underscores the Republicans Party's relentless dedication to the interests of the wealthiest Americans, at the expense of the ordinary, hard-working Americans who are truly the ones who make this country great.
I did not start my life in this tax bracket, but after starting a grocery company more than 30 years ago in my mother’s garage with a $100 investment, I now employ more than a thousand people as the head of MOM’s Organic Market.
And while I am fortunate enough to now have an estate worth $11 million or more, I find the elimination of the federal estate tax truly perplexing. Take it from me: my children, after inheriting $11 million, wouldn't need an additional tax break, especially if it comes at the expense of American's fiscal health.
When Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was asked almost a century ago, "Don't you hate to pay taxes?" he rebuked, "No. I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization!"
Many years ago as I was signing tax returns, my wife heard me belly-aching about the amount of taxes we were paying. Her reply to me stopped me in my tracks: "It is a privilege to pay taxes in this country." Her comment turned my attitude from one of being a victim to one who is grateful to have been born and lived as a citizen of the USA.
But there are some unpatriotic, selfish, and backwards Americans who see taxes as "theft" by government. They whine whenever taxes go up, or even when taxes stay the same, as is the case of those who are against keeping the estate tax as-is. But unless we pay the taxes required to provide this country's infrastructure and services (on which, ironically, entrepreneurs like myself depend to build our businesses and wealth), then the wealthy who perpetually shriek (and spend millions of dollars to lobby!) for tax cuts are essentially thieves of America's services and infrastructure.
That’s why, in a recent debate on CNN between Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, I asked Senator Cruz to explain his support for the estate tax: “Why should my children or the children of any wealthy person inherit millions of tax-free dollars, while other Americans have to pay taxes on the money they actually earn?”
His answer was nonsensical.
Senator Cruz did not answer this straightforward question about my children or about the moral absurdity of taxing work, but not taxing inheritances. Instead, he pontificated about farmers. He also implied the estate tax would cause my business to have to lay off employees.
I can confidently say paying the estate tax is not going to have any impact on my company’s ability to maintain our employees. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying.
I didn’t go to the CNN debate hoping to land a “gotcha” moment on Senator Cruz. I wanted him to genuinely answer my question: Why shouldn’t the heirs of immense fortunes pay taxes on their inheritances?
I didn’t get a clear or compelling answer, and neither did the millions of viewers who tuned into watch the debate. Republicans like Senator Cruz owe an explanation to their constituents who stand to lose with the elimination of the federal estate tax.
I’m here to say: my family can afford to pay our fair share and Republicans in power should demand that we do. I hope Senator Cruz, the Republican Party and President Trump will reconsider their position and choose to strengthen, not repeal the estate tax.
Scott Nash is founder and CEO of MOM’s Organic Market, a chain of family-owned and operated grocery stores. He is involved in advocacy groups, including Patriotic Millionaires.