The federal estate tax is assessed on property transferred from deceased persons to their heirs. The Congressional Budget Office has found that the estate tax leads affluent individuals to donate far more than they otherwise would, because such donations sharply reduce estate tax liability, and that repealing the estate tax would reduce charitable bequests by 16 to 28 percent.
The 2017 tax law roughly doubled the lifetime exemption from the estate tax, and it is currently set at an inflation-adjusted $11.4 million per individual in 2019. These changes could reduce future charitable bequests by $7 billion.
The estate tax is also an economically efficient way to raise revenue that supports local communities and lowers deficits without imposing burdens on low- and moderate-income Americans. This approach is consistent with Independent Sector’s Statement of Beliefs Regarding Tax and Spending Policies.