If you have worked hard for five decades, made pots of money and now want to squander it all in Las Vegas on wine, women and baccarat, go ahead. If, however, you harbor the antisocial desire — stigmatized as such by America’s judgmental tax code — to bequeath your wealth to your children, this would be an excellent month to die. Absent a congressional fix before Jan. 1, the death tax, which is 35 percent on estates above $5 million, reverts to 55?percent on those above $1 million.
This is one of many tax changes that could be triggered. The Hoover Institution’s Tammy M. Frisby, writing in Policy Review, says that — not counting temporary disaster-relief tax breaks — 31, 56 and 37 provisions of the tax code expired in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively. “The country,” she says, “is trying to create sustained economic growth using temporary tax laws.” It is not working.
Unless Congress quickly reaffirms its follies, this month the tax credit that subsidizes wind power — a long-standing adventure in industrial policy — expires. This is not quite a sufficient reason to go over the “fiscal cliff” but would be a consolation for doing so.