Economy & Budget

Estate tax harms minority- and women-owned businesses

The United States now holds the distinction of maintaining the fourth-highest “death tax” in the world and the president’s recent budget proposal would put us at No. 1, according to a new international survey by Schoening Strategies and the Tax Foundation. It is lonely at the top, and costly, too, because the U.S. death tax hurts our competitiveness in the world, destroys jobs and disproportionately hampers minority- and women-owned businesses across the country.

{mosads}The death tax threatens to cut down minority-owned businesses at every generation. A 2004 study by two Boston College professors showed that the death tax will confiscate 10 to 13 percent of all African-American wealth by 2055.

The death tax creates an unfair situation for minority businesses which have primarily started to accumulate wealth within the last 60 years. Many minority-owned family businesses are first-generation businesses, where children work alongside their parents. These business owners do not want to sell out at fire-sale prices to pay the estate tax and eliminate the livelihoods for the next generation in addition to the jobs for those whom they employ. A 1997 Kennesaw State University study discovered that 90 percent of black business owners surveyed believe the death tax hindered their long-term growth prospects. The equivalent figure for companies overall was 61 percent. It makes no sense to create yet another hurdle to success for minority-owned businesses through the tax code.

Women face similar obstacles as minorities in passing on multi-generational family businesses without having them cut down by the death tax. Last week, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) arranged an estate tax hearing on Capitol Hill that featured family- and women-operated businesses and farms. One witness, Karen Madonia, CFO of her family’s HVAC distribution company in Illinois, has worked alongside her father to help build the family business from only seven employees to almost 100 today. Karen hopes for her three daughters to follow in her and her father’s footsteps by growing the family business in their home community. Unfortunately, when Karen’s father passes, her family will have to sell off parts of the business, cut wages and fire workers to come up with money to pay the death tax. Even that might not be enough to save their family business from the grip of Uncle Sam. Why is it fair to penalize anyone who worked hard, created jobs, took risks, achieved success and paid substantial taxes during their lifetime with a 40 percent tax at death?

The National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) recently joined the Family Business Coalition and 82 other industry groups on a letter supporting Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Sen. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015. As the House marks up death tax repeal legislation for first time in a decade and Thune readies his bill for reintroduction this week, the NBCC is proud to join with these groups to push for full and permanent repeal of the death tax. Our members urge the 25 House Democrats who have previously voted for repeal to join Bishop and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in again voting to save the family farm from the death tax. The estate tax money that the government brings in amounts to 1 percent of the total budget. There must be a better way to collect 1 percent of government spending than by taxing America’s minority- and women-owned businesses out of existence.

Alford is the cofounder, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

Tags death tax estate tax Joe Manchin John Thune Kevin Brady Kristi Noem Sanford Bishop

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