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February 5, 2008

A Column of Personal Opinion
By State Senator Sheila Harsdorf

€œDeath Tax:
Gone Today, Here Tomorrow?€


Perhaps no state and federal tax has seen as much change in the past two decades as the estate tax, commonly referred to as the “Death Tax”.  The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, an independent research group, did a policy analysis on how state and federal tax law changes have greatly affected estate planning over the years.

In 2001, the U.S. Congress enacted sweeping tax reductions, including a phase-out of the federal estate tax.  The phase-out of the federal estate tax would disappear by 2010.   Yet, this tax phase-out had a sunset clause.   In 2011, without congressional action, the full federal estate tax would return to pre-2001 tax levels. 

Since 1992, Wisconsin was one of effectively 38 states that had a full Death Tax that matched the federal government level.  In 2001, while the federal government began a phase-out, Wisconsin continued its estate tax.  However, as part of the 2001-03 state budget bill, under then Governor Scott McCallum, Wisconsin effectively ended its estate tax effective in 2008.

Today’s Democratic U.S. Congress appears uninterested in stopping the rebirth of the Death Tax come 2011.  Likewise, state Death Taxes, which totaled $121 million in 2006 are eliminated for 2008 through 2010.  Yet, in 2011, if no action is taken, Wisconsin could again have a full estate tax.

I have supported efforts to end the Death Tax.   However, new State Senate leadership has shown a propensity to want to tax more at every turn, not less.  Should a Death Tax come back in full force in 2011, families may face either losing the family-owned business or having to repurchase it due to taxes on the estate. 

What do you think about the Death Tax?  Email me at or call me at 1-800-862-1092.