'Death Tax' Repeal to Lift 'Heavy Burden' Off Families, Say Lobbyists

By Christine Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

Editor's note: Corrects Charlie Jarvis's title
(CNSNews.com) - "I don't have a large estate, but whatever I have, if it was taxed, then my grandson would not benefit from that," said Jane Hunter, a retiree and grandmother from Arlington, Va.

Hunter arrived at the U.S. Capitol on a blustery March morning to talk about why she supports efforts in Congress to repeal the federal estate tax. Hunter is a caregiver for her grandson Jeremy who suffers from cerebral palsy. She worries that the estate tax will diminish the inheritance she could leave him when she dies.

"Mrs. Hunter is a classic example of the hidden heroes who are out there," explained Charlie Jarvis, president and CEO of the United Seniors Association. "Caregivers ... will literally be punished for taking care of their children and grandchildren. What we need to do is lift this incredibly heavy burden off their backs and free this economy up, too, instead of [it] being wasted on death tax," Jarvis said.

Hunter and Jarvis were among a handful of representatives from advocacy groups, families and family-owned businesses who came to the Capitol to show support for "death tax" repeal.

Erin O'Leary could identify with Jane Hunter and her grandson Jeremy. O'Leary, too, came to talk about how the death tax impacts the well being of disabled Americans. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis ten years ago. When she recently saw billionaires like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and George Soros publicly supporting the inheritance tax, she was outraged and decided to form a group called Disabled Americans for Death Tax Repeal.

"I take offense that this group of wealthy elite should term helping people like me an 'unfortunate legacy' and that I shouldn't be allowed to keep the money my family has earned to offset future medical expenses," said O'Leary.

Jarvis was even more blunt. "We've all been fed truckloads of billionaire baloney," said Jarvis about the national pro-tax advertisements sponsored by Gates, Soros and others.

Robert de Posada of the Hispanic Business Roundtable spoke of his family's predicament when his father passed away in the early 1980s. Unable to pay the inheritance tax on his father's publishing business, de Posada and his siblings were forced to sell the business. According to de Posada, his situation was hardly unique. "A lot of Hispanic business owners are deeply affected by the death tax," he said.

"Women and minority owned businesses are on the rise, and that's good news for the economy," said Karen Kerrigan, who chairs the Small Business Survival Committee. "Like many first-generation entrepreneurs, women and minority business owners are discovering that the government will claim as much as 55 percent of the total assets of their business upon death. Dreams, hard work and jobs are all on the line," she said.

Reps. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) and Chris Cox (R-Calif.) also spoke at the Thursday press conference. Dunn introduced a bill last week to phase out the inheritance tax over a ten-year period. The bill currently has 220 co-sponsors.

Death tax foes have been frustrated in previous efforts to get rid of the tax. In July 2000, both the Senate and House passed a measure eliminating the inheritance tax, but President Clinton vetoed it, calling it a "tax cut for the rich." President Bush, however, does support repeal of the tax.