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.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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  1. iceironman says:

    I guess I see it as it could effect every hoosier family. We all pretty much aspire for wealth, we all have the oppertunity. So it can effect everyone.

    The thing I dont like is when people say “its only .5%” Is it okay to pick on a minority.

    Hell, in another post Judeth said 44000 people died because they didnt have health insurance (I heard its a contageous disease BOOOO!), thats .4 %. So I guess if its a small percent we shouldnt complain. Doesnt effect that many people rigth??

    • Arthur Lewis says:

      Ice, the difference between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives see a tax on one (very rich) minority as them being ‘picked on’, but apparently have no problem with another, less fortunate, minority having no health insurance. That speaks volumes.

  2. Charlotte,

    Wow, that is a disappointing ad from the Stutzman campaign… I am a CPA and I deal with estate tax issues every year for my clients.

    I 100% oppose the Federal estate tax AND the Indiana Inheritance tax. They end up taxing you on money you have already paid tax on and that is just flat out wrong.

    You are certainly right that you CANNOT say that is will effect every Hoosier family; that is simply not true. It is disappointing that the Stutzman campaign put something in their campaign ad that is just flat out wrong.

    There are two things that I would like to discuss from your post.

    The first is just a clarification for you and your readers. The Indiana Inheritance tax does NOT apply to every Hoosier. Depending on how you are related to the deceased you qualify for an exemption of up to $100,000. So many Hoosiers do not pay Indiana Inheritance tax when they inherit money or property.

    The second is at the end of your post. You say that the ad misleads the public about Dr. Hayhursts position on the Federal Estate tax. I beleive that you are saying that becaues Dr. Hayhurst has not taken a public stance on the Federal Estate tax?

    Mike Sylvester

  3. Arthur Lewis says:

    Stutzman’s approach is to try to scare everyone, which is typical of the conservative playbook. If he really is concerned about something the affects hoosiers, why are some of his biggest contributions from the sugar industry, which benefits from a market manipulated through subsidies to artificially prop up the price of sugar? This drives up the cost of food for everyone.

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