Two tax votes reveal Republican priorities

The House of Representatives approved the Tax Extenders Act of 2009 on Wednesday by a vote of 241 to 181. As you can see from the roll call, all but ten Democrats voted for the bill, including Iowa’s Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell. All but two Republicans voted against it, including Iowa’s Tom Latham and Steve King. After the jump I’ve posted more details about the business tax credits that would be extended if this bill becomes law.

On December 3, the House passed the Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families Farmers and Small Businesses Act, which caps the estate tax at 45 percent and exempts estates worth up to $3.5 million (preserving this tax at 2009 levels). Again, all of Iowa’s Democrats voted for the bill. Iowa’s Republicans voted against it. If Congress had not acted, the estate tax would have been repealed in 2010 and then would have reverted to its 2001 level in 2011 (a 55 percent tax on estates valued above $1 million).

Republicans claim the so-called “death tax” is a burden to small business owners and farmers. Candidate Jim Gibbons already used this canard in a press release targeting Boswell. Right-wingers can’t find any real-world families who had to sell the farm because of the estate tax. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has concluded (emphasis added),

If the 2009 estate tax rules are extended, only 100 small business and farm estates in the entire nation will owe any estate tax at all in 2011, according to the new estimates by the Tax Policy Center, and virtually none of those businesses and farms would have to be sold to pay the tax. […]

Under 2009 law, the estates of more than 997 of every 1,000 people who die will owe no estate tax whatsoever. […] In its latest analysis, the Tax Policy Center projects that only 0.25 percent of the estates of people who die in 2011 – i.e., the estates of 1 of every 400 people who die – will be subject to the estate tax if the 2009 estate tax rules are continued.

Less than 1 percent of estates in Iowa were subject to the estate tax in recent years.

To sum up: Republicans are for saving farmers and small business owners from the so-called “death tax” that doesn’t apply to them. But when they had a chance on Wednesday to extend tax credits affecting farms and small businesses, House Republicans said no.

Why am I not surprised?

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