Taxing Wealth: Exploring Issues in Taxation

Jul 24, 2007Jul 25, 2007
B-339 Rayburn House Office Building




Session One: Tuesday, July 24th
Evaluating the Estate Tax
Dr. Antony Davies
Associate Professor of Economics
Duquesne University

Click Here to view Dr. Davies' presentation.

Session Two: Wednesday, July 25th 
Analyzing the AMT

Veronique de Rugy
Senior Research Fellow
Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Click Here to view Veronique de Rugy's presentation.

Benjamin Franklin famously said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes."  However, the quote no longer describes a simple sales or property tax, but instead applies to complex legislation like the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and the Estate Tax. And while the debate over these important issues has become more complicated, the rhetoric is nearly as intense as the old tax rebellions of colonial times. To help policy makers sort out the rhetoric from the facts, the Mercatus Center is hosting a two-day course that will analyze the statistical trends of these issues with university based scholarship. 

Created in 1969 to prevent a few of the very wealthiest taxpayers from using deductions and credits to avoid federal income taxes, the AMT affects a growing share of the population.  Expanded from its original scope and not indexed for inflation, the AMT will affect 23 million upper-middle class taxpayers in 2007, up from about 4.2 million in 2006, and could hit over 36 million by 2010. As a result, Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are now proposing solutions.

First enacted in 1916, Congress designed the Estate Tax to affect only the wealthiest American families. Proponents of the Estate Tax hail the measure as an economic equalizer, and an important part of a progressive tax code. Opponents, however now claim that the tax is disproportionately affecting small business owners and stunting economic growth. In addition, they argue that the wealthiest individuals are simply sheltering their wealth via foundations to avoid the tax altogether.

This course will help policy makers to gain a valuable perspective that will assist them in making effective tax policy decisions. Attendees will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge of tax issues and address the following questions:

  • Which groups of people do these taxes affect?  Are they achieving their intended goals?
  • How does a person calculate whether the AMT will affect them?  What deductions are allowed or foregone? 
  • How might the Estate Tax alter taxpayers' behavior?
  • How much of a political issue can we expect the Estate Tax to be in the future?