Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had some choice words regarding the estate tax, seemingly throwing the average American under the bus for not saving and investing more money. After taking heat over the comments, on Monday the senator offered clarification of those remarks.
“My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they die,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said in a statement. “The question is one of basic fairness, and working to create a tax code that doesn’t penalize frugality, saving and investment.”
At issue were comments indicating the senator prizes wealthy investors over the average working class American:
“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
The vast majority of U.S. citizens are unaffected by the estate tax.
Under current law, when someone dies the estate owes taxes on the value of assets transferred to heirs above $5.5 million for individuals and $11 million for couples. The Senate bill doubles those limits but does not repeal the tax. The House bill initially doubles the limits and then repeals the entire tax after 2023.
Like many of his Republican colleagues, Grassley raised the legitimate problem of this tax burden adversely affecting those looking to pass down a family farm or other small business, though the Tax Policy Center estimates only about 80 such enterprises will encounter estate tax in 2017.
Grassley, in his statement on Monday, said he wants to ensure the tax code is as fair for “family farmers who have to break up their operations to pay the IRS following the death of a loved one as it is for parents saving for their children’s college education or working families investing and saving for their retirement.”