Imagine that your family has lived on the same land for 11 generations spanning nearly 400 years. Your family built a proud home on the banks of a beautiful river, cultivated the fields, and built a successful business on the land to support itself. But then the patriarch of your family dies and, to pay the death tax, your family is forced to sell parts or all of the land.
Your American Dream is dead, and your estate might as well have eroded into the river.
The possibility of surrendering the site of 400 years of family history and legacy to the U.S. federal government is what the Carter family faced at the death of their patriarch in 2009. The Carters own Shirley Plantation in Virginia, which was formed by a royal land grant in 1613 and opened for business in 1638.
The Charles City County establishment is now considered “the oldest family-owned business in North America.” The death tax was such a threat to the business’ viability though, that in order to prepare for it the family was forced to lease part of their property to Waste Management for garbage disposal.
The Carters are the very picture of the American Dream; they are self-sufficient land owners who have cultivated a rich history along with their soil and furniture craftsmanship. Yet Big Government would have taken that all away if the family couldn’t pay the cumbersome and baseless death tax.
As Republicans fret over how to repeal Obamacare, and as we await a slew of confirmation hearings and whatever sound and fury Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president will hold, there is a quiet movement brewing to repeal the death tax and to stop the Obama administration’s last-ditch effort to make the tax even more of a chokehold.
This week, Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla. (C, 74%) and new Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson reintroduced H.R. 6100, the Protect Family Farms and Businesses Act, seeking to stop proposed rules that would change the way families assess the value of transferred assets. The proposed rules from the Treasury Department would make even more assets liable to the death tax.
“The Constitution is very clear: ‘The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes.’ The Obama Administration’s proposed tax increase violates what was clearly spelled out by Congress,” Rep. Davidson wrote in the September press release of the bill.
“This increase on the part of the executive branch violates the separation of powers within the federal government by unilaterally changing well-established tax law and practice and rejecting the clear will of Congress.”
Let’s hope it gains legs in the McConnell-Ryan Congress — it currently has 92 cosponsors — and is signed into law by Donald Trump, who included a death tax repeal as part of his tax plan. If there was ever a time to get rid of the class-warfare tool known as the death tax, it’s in the new Republican era we’re entering on January 20.
The Carter family managed to save their land and business from the death tax’s grip by allowing their land to be littered with trash. But if Republicans don’t take the opportunity during the Trump administration to gut the baseless death tax, will the Shirley Plantation (and the countless family-owned businesses like it across all America) survive to see a 12th generation live out the American Dream?
Editor's note: This piece has been updated to correct a typographical error.
Maria Jeffrey is a correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTJeffrey