Grassley: Estate tax comments were misinterpreted

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Thanks to the farm lobby, the US is stuck with a broken ethanol policy MORE (R-Iowa) on Monday said his comments that the estate tax rewards those who don’t spend “every darn penny” on "booze or women or movies" were taken out of context, saying he meant that the government shouldn't punish investment.

“My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die,” Grassley said in a statement.

“The question is one of basic fairness, and working to create a tax code that doesn’t penalize frugality, saving and investment," he said.

The estate tax, often derided as the “death tax,” is a 40-percent tax on estates deemed to be worth around $10 million or more.

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Grassley was quoted in The Des Moines Register over the weekend saying that abolishing the estate tax "recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies."

The comments quickly gained traction on social media.

The future of the estate tax is one of the key differences between the House and Senate tax-reform bills that will need to be reconciled in a joint committee.

The House version of the bill calls for the estate tax to be completely eliminated by 2024. Before being fully repealed, the estate tax exemption will double.

In the Senate version, the estate tax would not be repealed, but would allow up to $11 million to be passed on tax-free for individuals, double the current exemption. 

Grassley has previously spoken out against the estate tax, and has previously sponsored legislation to abolish the tax entirely.