Change We Can't Believe In . . . or Afford: Why the Timing Is Wrong to Reduce the Estate Tax for the Wealthiest Americans

Phyllis C. Smith, Florida A&M University College of Law


At the end of 2008, the United States was in the midst of an economic storm. Enduring its worst financial state since the Great Depression, the nation faced a number of significant societal and industrial problems. No precise calculus may exist for formulating tax solutions, but the notion that an effective tax policy can be a helpful aid to economic recovery should go unquestioned. Unfortunately, recent tax policy has not reflected the needed concern for the country's economic predicament. This was especially true with respect to several issues which stemmed from the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act ("EGTRRA") of 2001, also known as the "Bush tax cuts.” Specifically, because of EGTRRA's sunset provisions, reform was necessary to deal with the temporary repeal of the estate tax scheduled for the 2010 tax year. While there is extensive literature on whether there should even be an estate tax, there is little discussion as to how tax policy has made the estate tax less effective as a revenue generator and what reform should be made to reverse that phenomenon. This Article seeks to change that.