The old adage “the only things certain in life are death and taxes” has become the topic of a recent misleading political commercial put forth by Marlin Stutzman. Stutzman employs scare tactics revolving around the “death” tax – officially known as the federal estate tax. With a federal IRS form displayed in the background, Stutzman alleges that Dr. Hayhurst supports the “death” tax. Stutzman then goes on to opine that the death tax is a “massive” tax supported by Dr. Hayhurst that will cost every Hoosier family. The following is the commercial Stutzman is airing.
How wrong could he be? Pardon the pun – but dead wrong. First, the “death tax” to which Stutzman refers is a federal tax – as shown by his choice of forms displayed in the commercial – that only kicks in when estate assets reach a certain level. The federal estate tax has been around in some form or another since 1916.
However, Congress allowed the federal estate tax to expire at the end of 2009 and hasn’t yet decided to revive it from the grave. Prior to its expiration at the end of 2009, the estate tax applied to those with estates of $3.5 million or more – $7 million for married couples. Prior to that increased floor, the level was around $1,000,000. The federal tax will probably kick back in 2011 when Congress is forced to address some of the taxation issues; however, the level of assessment will certainly be a contentious issue.
Does some form of tax exist on your property – as a Hoosier – because you die? Yes. However, it is state-controlled by our Indiana legislature. It is called the inheritance tax. Indiana law does not provide for a separate estate tax, but it does assess an inheritance tax on property in the state or property owned by an Indiana resident.
This is not the tax that Stutzman addresses in his ad. He clearly shows a federal IRS form in the background as he drones on about the death tax and its impact on “every Hoosier” family. But just how many Hoosier families are worth $1,000,000 or more (a previous level of assessment)? According to the last census, Indiana was home to 32,000 millionaires for a .5 per cent of the population. That leaves a whopping 99.5% of Hoosiers who are not affected by the “death tax.”
So, which is it Marlin? Are you addressing the federal estate tax in your commercial? In which case, you have totally mislead the public about its impact on Hoosier families. Or, are you referring to the state-controlled inheritance tax? In which case, you are still misleading the public because you link it to a federal form rather than an Indiana form and egregiously neglect to mention that it is state-imposed and not in the purview of Congress.
When Stutuzman makes his magical remarks about the federal estate tax, he is truly misleading the public about the death tax, its impact on Hoosier families, and Dr. Hayhurst’s position.