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Americans Say Estate Tax Unfair, Should Be Repealed

1 min readBy: Scott Hodge

With the debate over permanent repeal of the estate taxAn estate tax is imposed on the net value of an individual’s taxable estate, after any exclusions or credits, at the time of death. The tax is paid by the estate itself before assets are distributed to heirs. on hold until September, it may be useful to re-examine public opinion on the federal estate taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. .

According to our Tax Foundation/Harris Interactive survey of 2,013 adults in April, Americans are surprisingly united in their distaste for the federal estate tax. Respondents said that it is the most unfair of all federal taxes—even more unfair than the federal income tax.

Question 1: “Of the following federal taxes, which do you think is the worst tax—that is, the least fair?”

The federal estate tax


Federal income tax


Social Security payroll tax


Federal corporate income tax


Not sure


Source: Tax Foundation/Harris Interactive

Not only do they think the estate tax is unfair, but a majority favor outright repeal. When asked if they favor eliminating the federal estate tax, an overwhelming 68 percent favored elimination.

Question 2: “Do you personally favor or oppose completely eliminating the estate tax—that is, the tax on property left by people who die?”





Not sure


Source: Tax Foundation/Harris Interactive

Support for repeal is significantly higher among middle-class Americans earning between $35,000-$75,000 (73 percent) and families with three or more children at home (76 percent). Notably, support for estate tax repeal is growing rapidly. In 2003 just 54 percent of Americans favored repeal—an increase of 14 percentage points in just two years.

You can view the full results of our 2005 “Annual Survey of U.S. Attitudes on Tax and Wealth” on our website at