Senate Republicans reintroduce bill to repeal the estate tax

Senate Republicans reintroduce bill to repeal the estate tax
© Stefani Reynolds

Senate Republicans on Monday announced that they are reintroducing legislation to repeal the federal estate tax.

The bill comes after the GOP tax law reduced the number of estates that would be subject to the tax but did not completely eliminate it.

The legislation was offered by Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP senators divided over approach to election security McSally on Moore running for Senate again: 'This place has enough creepy old men' Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account MORE (R-S.D.), the number two Senate Republican, and is co-sponsored by more than two dozen others in the caucus, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility California governor predicts 'xenophobic' GOP will likely be third party in 15 years This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley raises concerns about objectivity of report critical of GOP tax law's effects Overnight Health Care: Key Trump drug pricing proposal takes step forward | Missouri Planned Parenthood clinic loses bid for license | 2020 Democrats to take part in Saturday forum on abortion rights Key Trump proposal to lower drug prices takes step forward MORE (R-Iowa). Thune has repeatedly introduced legislation to repeal the estate tax.

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The bill is unlikely to become law in the next two years, since it would need 60 votes to pass the Senate and would be unable to pass the Democratic-controlled House. But by introducing the bill, Senate Republicans are able to highlight one of their longstanding tax priorities. 

The tax law that President TrumpDonald John TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates MORE signed in December 2017 did not repeal the estate tax but it doubled the amount that will be exempt from the tax. In 2019, the exemption amount for an individual is $11.4 million. The increase in the estate tax exemption amounts expires after 2025.

The Senate Republicans argued that repealing the estate tax, which they often call the "death tax," would be beneficial to owners of small businesses and family farms.

“Oftentimes, family-owned farms and ranches bear the brunt of this tax, which threatens families’ agricultural legacies and makes it difficult and costly to pass these businesses down to future generations," Thune said in a news release. "This way of life is integral to so many South Dakota families, which is why I remain committed to removing roadblocks for these family businesses, and we can start by repealing the death tax once and for all.”

Grassley said that "the estate tax doesn’t serve any purpose except forcing family farms and family-run businesses to waste precious capital on costly tax planning and in too many cases, paying taxes on income or property that have already been taxed once." 

But the bill is sure to be opposed by many Democrats, who argue that repealing the estate tax would help the rich and that very few taxpayers were subject to the tax even before the GOP tax law.

During the development of the 2017 tax law, moderate GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMaine House speaker announces challenge to Collins Senate seat GOP senators divided over approach to election security GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE (Maine) also expressed opposition to fully repealing the estate tax. Collins is not a co-sponsor of Thune's bill.

The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, whose director is a former Obama administration official, estimated that only about 80 small farms and small closely-held businesses paid the estate tax in 2017, and that those types of businesses would not be subject to the tax in 2018 because of the tax-law changes.