Declare the Pennies on Your Eyes

By December 1, 2007Taxation

The estate tax emerges as one of the topics in the December edition of “The New Criterion” and its commentary on the 20th anniversary of Alan Bloom’s “The Closing of the American Mind.” No, really!

From Mark Steyn, “Twenty years ago today,” a great piece about rock ‘n roll as cultural sandpaper, one of the themes in Bloom’s book.

The last time I saw Paul McCartney on stage he was urging us all to give our money to Africa. Yet I found myself thinking of Sir Paul’s late wife. Linda McCartney had been a resident of the United Kingdom for three decades, but her Manhattan tax lawyers, Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts, devoted considerable energy in her final months to establishing her right to have her estate probated in New York state. That way she could avoid the 40 percent death duties levied by Her Majesty’s Government.

At the Live8 extravaganza in London two years ago, Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd said: “I want to do everything I can to persuade the G8 leaders to make huge commitments to the relief of poverty and increased aid to the Third World. It’s crazy that America gives such a paltry percentage of its GNP to the starving nations.”

No, it’s not. It’s no more crazy than Linda McCartney giving such a paltry percentage of her estate—i.e., 0 percent—to the British Treasury. Africa is a hard place to help. Madonna urged the people to “start a revolution.” Like Africa hasn’t had enough of those these past forty years? The rockers demand we give our money to African dictators to manage, while they give their money to Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts to manage. Which of those models makes more sense?

Perverse incentives everywhere. Unfortunately, owners of family businesses have less recourse than McCartney — or Warren Buffett, for that matter — to Winthrop et al. to protect their hard-earned wealth from the tax man.

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