Inheritance Tax Bills Aim to Lessen Burden on Small Businesses

Both the House and the Senate have now passed legislation addressing the inheritance tax. However, the bills take very different approaches in how they choose to deal with the egregious tax. The House bill (HB 1199) is simple and straightforward, slowly phasing the tax out over 10 years. The Senate bill (SB 293) is a little more complicated but makes a combination of meaningful improvements that offers more immediate relief for many.

These bills and their approaches are different but they are by no means incompatible. They could easily be combined to produce a ‘best of both’ bill – immediate relief, in the form of raised exemption thresholds and expanding the beneficiaries that are most favorably treated (as in the Senate bill) coupled with the permanence of a phase-out (as in the House bill). The easiest way to make this blend happen would be to replace the 50% rate reduction in SB 293 with a 50% credit, then proceed to phase the tax out over the following five years by increasing the credit an additional 10% each year thereafter. The hope is that would be a final product everyone can live with.

Bill # and Title: SB 293 – Inheritance Tax
Author: Sen. Jim Smith (R–Charlestown)
Summary: Reclassifies a spouse, widow or widower of a child of the transferor as a Class A transferee instead of a Class B transferee. Reclassifies a spouse, widow or widower of a stepchild of the transferor as a Class A transferee instead of a Class C transferee. Annually increases the inheritance tax exemption amounts through 2015. Reduces the inheritance tax rates by 50% beginning June 30, 2016.
Chamber Position: Support
Status: Passed the full Senate on Tuesday 50-0.

Update/Chamber Action: This bill addresses several negative aspects of Indiana’s inheritance tax. It updates who is included in the more favorably-treated category of inheritors (Class A beneficiaries) by redefining the group to encompass not just the children, but also the spouses of a child or stepchild. It also phases in significant increases in the ridiculously low threshold for the amounts that are excluded/exempted from the tax. And finally, starting in 2016, it cuts the rates in half. So the bill takes very meaningful steps to improve the tax, but it doesn’t go all the way and put Indiana on a course to completely rid our citizens of the onerous tax.

The Indiana Chamber, in its testimony at the hearing, acknowledged the very substantial steps that this bill provides in terms of lessening the detrimental impact of this tax and that it smartly addresses the standout problems. However, we took the opportunity to point out that while this bill provides more immediate relief than the House approach (see below), it falls short by not eliminating the tax altogether like the House version does via a scheduled (albeit slow) 10-year phase-out. We suggested that blending this bill’s more immediate improvements with the House bill’s ultimate elimination would represent the best amalgamation of policy choices. Our efforts during the second half of the session will be to promote the wisdom of combining the best provisions of the House and Senate bills as each is considered by the opposite chamber.

Bill # and Title:  HB 1199 – Inheritance Tax
Author: Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero)
Summary: Provides for a gradual, 10-year phase out of the inheritance tax, beginning July 1, 2013.
Chamber Position: Support
Status: Passed the full House 78-17.

Update/Chamber Action: The merits of doing away with this offensive tax are becoming more widely accepted as legislators consider its impact on small family businesses in their communities. This was evidenced by the bipartisan support it received as it easily passed out of the Ways and Means Committee. The Indiana Chamber is working hard to make sure everyone truly appreciates just how counter-productive the tax is, who is impacted, how they are impacted and why the state would be better off without it.

Taxing Us to Death and Beyond

I thought this argument, forgive the pun, was dead and buried. The issue: an estate tax that penalizes business owners, investors and all survivors that must pay Uncle Sam for the success and monies earned by a person before they passed away.

The so-called death tax was part of the 2001 reform package that gradually reduced its impact. Elimination was scheduled for 2010 (although it was never made permanent and was ultimately scheduled to return a year later). But at a time when we should be looking at maintaining the elimination, the Obama administration and Congress are indicating a high priority in keeping the tax in place (with no removal in 2010).

Supporters of that plan say there will be little impact on the economy since they intend to keep the tax at its current level. Are they serious? Who do you want to have that money? The government or Americans who would be in position to increase private sector spending and investment.

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council outlines the case. Read it and, if this plays out as projected, weep.