Maryland's punitive estate tax [Letter]

It is unfortunate that Baltimore's major newspaper uses language suggestive of class warfare in its editorial about estate tax relief ("The $431 million payoff," March 21).

"Aging millionaire?" "Ultra-rich?" "Manor homes and penthouses?" The editorial's rhetoric and misleading statistics ignore the real issue: Middle-class Marylanders who have worked hard and saved throughout their lives now find themselves forced to restructure their estates, give away their assets (and hope they don't run out of money), or move to a more tax-friendly state in order to avoid Maryland's punitive estate tax.

The Sun's editorial implies that easing Maryland's estate tax will only help the wealthy. In my experience, though, the wealthy generally have advisers and can plan accordingly. It is middle-class citizens who find themselves trapped. Two career teachers or two government employees who have retirement savings and have paid off their homes often exceed Maryland's $1 million estate threshold. Unless they carefully plan their estates or relocate to a nearby state, their heirs will be taxed on assets which were already taxed when they were acquired.

Forbes magazine repeatedly has labeled Maryland one of the worst states in which to die. In addition to estate taxes, Maryland is one of the few states with an inheritance tax which assesses a 10 percent levy on bequests to anyone other than a child or grandchild. Maryland's legislature finally took an important step in addressing this disparity. The Sun should not scold them for doing what was right. Keeping our middle-class tax base in Maryland should always be a priority.

James A. List, Hunt Valley

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