Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Lexington Herald Leader Wrong on Estate Tax

The Lexington Herald Leader passes on a bit of bad information this morning (dead tree version only) on it's opinion page. Their reprint of a San Jose Mercury News unsigned editorial gives us a commonly repeated lie about the death tax.

The editorial states that the current estate tax exemption ($1.5 million) and that of a "compromise" Democrat bill that would have raised it to $3.5 million, is worth $3 million and $7 million respectively, for couples. This simply isn't true, and they have to know it. When one spouse dies, his or her estate passes on to the surviving spouse with no estate tax liability. When the surviving spouse dies, he or she gets one exemption. So doubling the exemption for a "couple" does not happen.

A simple example would be a couple with $2.5 million dollars, less than the $3 million "couple" exemption. The death of the first spouse would cause the entire estate to pass on to the surviving spouse. The death of the surviving spouse would result in the application of the $1.5 million exemption and leave $1 million subject to the death tax. This obviously wouldn't be the case if there were a $3 million "couple" exemption. But there isn't.

Again, this is such an elementary detail of estate tax law that the Democrats in Congress and their friends at the New York Times and Washington Post would have to know the truth. What seems most likely is that they are counting on you not taking the time to check out their spin.

We'll hold our breath waiting for a correction from the Herald Leader.