Taxing you to death

People in the South Park Blocks may come across a number of friendly faces bearing clipboards a little more often in the coming days, as the push to get measures on the next round of ballots kicks into high gear.

People in the South Park Blocks may come across a number of friendly faces bearing clipboards a little more often in the coming days, as the push to get measures on the next round of ballots kicks into high gear.

The topics are broad, spanning causes in which many passionately believe. And you can always count on something pertaining to marijuana to be discussed. One issue which people may be pressed to sign off on is the repeal of Oregon’s “death tax.”

Up and down the Park Blocks, canvassers come and go just as often as the students do. But they aren’t just there. They are at MAX stops, at the park and more. Each has their own sales pitch designed to get you to contribute your signature. However, it cannot be easy to fully comprehend a complex issue while on one’s way to class or work.

In fact, you can mostly count on not getting a genuine understanding of the issue in those few seconds before being asked for your John Hancock. This can be the case with the push to repeal the Oregon estate tax, also referred to as the inheritance tax. But it has gained popularity being known as the gruesome and scary “death tax.” While there is certainly a debate to be had regarding taxes and which ones are appropriate or not, the estate tax doesn’t allow us to have that debate—we first have to wade through a cloud of misleading impressions and marketing manipulation to even get to the true core of the issue.

Proponents of repealing the tax have put forth much effort and launched quite a PR campaign to get everyone on board to call it the “death tax,” and not by its real name, the inheritance tax. Sounds like we are getting taxed just for dying, right? Well, not exactly. The death tax, is actually an inheritance tax. It is a tax on estates that are left to a person after the estate owner dies.

For example, Joe Schmoe passes away and leaves his entire estate to Joe Schmoe, Jr. This estate includes cars, a house and a lifetime collection of “Robocop” film memorabilia, including a life-size Robocop suit to wear around the house. Now, junior has taken in quite a bit, and is taxed on the value of the estate. This tax is common on both the federal and state levels.

Sounds pretty simple, and even from such a brief description, can sound a bit unfair. What does inheriting an estate have to do with the government, and why are they getting their hands all over our inheritance? Good question. It’s not a question for those currently trying to repeal Oregon’s inheritance tax, because they would rather try to scare you first and not give you all the details.

For example, from the way it is described, it sounds as if we would all be taxed merely for having our dear loved ones pass on. Not exactly. To even be considered eligible for this tax in Oregon, the estate that is inherited has to exceed at least $1 million in value at the very minimum. If you’re in line to take in that kind of dough and more, let’s face it—you’re probably not reading this paper and are instead taking classes at a school with ivy climbing the buildings’ walls. Inheriting such wealth does happen, sure, but it doesn’t happen so much for the majority of regular everyday people.

Another issue that can be brought up is the family farmer. Death taxers love to bring this up—it is, after all, one of the most popular political tactics out there—you know, line up your agenda with an honorable-yet-economically-threatened sector of our society. Here’s the thing—most family farms won’t be dealing with the estate tax. The ones that do are actually eligible for tax credits aimed at protecting natural resources.

In other words, it all comes down to that one economic sector we all hear about and watch on “Gossip Girl”—the wealthier end of our society, which over the past decade has enjoyed not paying so much in taxes.

If you are presented with a petition to sign, take a moment first and ask a few questions. You don’t even have to sign right then and there; take the time to research first, and sign later. We all know those clipboard carriers are going to be out there when you come back, anyway.

Repealing the inheritance tax might be something you are for and support. That is fine. But at least be informed on the issue before helping bring it to a vote. ?