Bernie Sanders Unveils Estate-Tax Plan Expansion Targeting Billionaires
The ‘For the 99.8% Act’ would establish a progressive estate tax on the fortunes of the nation’s top 0.2 percent.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Thursday unveiled his plan for a progressive estate tax, titled the “For the 99.8% Act.”
“99.8 percent of Americans would not see their taxes go up by one penny under this plan,” reads a document outlining the bill from the senator’s office, as obtained by The Daily Beast.
Additionally, the new tax rate structure would levy a 45-percent estate tax on those valued at $3.5-10 million; a 50-percent tax on those valued between $10 and 50 million; a 55-percent liability on estates in excess of $50 billion; and a 77-percent tax on estates in excess of $1 billion.
Sanders' office noted that the 77-percent figure was also the top estate-tax rate from 1941 to 1976, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
“At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, when the three richest Americans own more wealth than 160 million Americans, it is literally beyond belief that the Republican leadership wants to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 0.2 percent,” Sanders said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
“Our bill does what the American people want by substantially increasing the estate tax on the wealthiest families in this country and dramatically reducing wealth inequality. From a moral, economic, and political perspective our nation will not thrive when so few have so much and so many have so little.”
The bill would also end tax breaks for dynasty trusts, so as to prevent individuals like billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson and the Walton family of Walmart from passing down their fortunes without paying taxes, Sanders' office said.
Addressing some concerns about how the legislation would impact family farmers, the bill would also allow them to lower the value of farmland by up to $3 million and “increase the maximum exclusion for conservation easements to $2 million.”
The senator’s office estimated that the families of 588 billionaires—with a net worth of over $3 trillion—would pay $2.2 trillion under this legislation.
The introduction of the bill arrives at a moment in which Democrats renew a discussion about taxing the nation’s wealthiest individuals. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who recently announced an exploratory bid for the presidency, introduced a plan to levy a 2-percent annual tax on households with a net worth of $50 million or more. And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has proposed a 70-percent marginal tax rate on people making more than $10 million.
Meanwhile, this week, Republican senators including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a bill to permanently repeal the estate tax.
Sanders, who has not announced his decision for 2020 but appears to be gearing up for another presidential campaign, announced a similar plan during his previous campaign. He has also supported a wealth tax plan akin to Warren's proposal as a means to finance Medicare-for-All legislation.