Monday, August 15, 2005

Small Business

This afternoon, one of the other attorneys in the office circulated material from an organization known as the Small Business Council of America opposing the repeal of the estate tax. (Note: I have not linked to the website of the Small Business Council of Amercia, because the distributed material did not set forth a link and the only URL I could find using a variety of search engines was, which was a "dead" link.) The attorney urged the other attorneys in the office to write letters to their Congressional representatives using the SBCA material. Even though I oppose the repeal of the estate tax, I will not send such a letter for several reasons.

First, I don't know enough about the SBCA. Even though in a previous statement submitted to Congresss when commenting on legislation it stated that "through its members, [it] represents well over 20,000 enterprises in retail, manufacturing and service industries," I can't really find out a good deal about the organization.

Second, while both the SBCA and I oppose the estate tax repeal, I am not in agreement with the SBCA's proposed substitute. Among other suggestions, the SBCA is in favor of increasing the unified credit to $3.5 million (I think that $2 or $2.5 million with regular COLA increases is more reasonable), an exemption from the estate tax of the first $1 million in qualified plan assets passing to a surviving spouse or $500 thousand if the assets are going to another heir, and a reduction in the top marginal rates under certain circumstances.

Third, as a matter of principle, I do not merely cut and paste my name on material authored by others and send it to legislators as my own. I retain the somewhat quaint notion that either the legislators or someone on their staffs actually reads letters from constituents and gives some weight to the actual content. Extending this concept one step further, I feel that content that is obviously a cut and paste job taken from a mass mailing campaign designed by a lobbying group is discounted by the legislator or staff member. While I have no first-hand experience in working in a legislative office, I suspect that it is more likely than not that my notion runs counter to what actually occurs. I'm willing to bet that mass-mailing campaigns using cookie-cutter letters actually have a greater impact than even the most well-reasoned customed tailored communication. But that's my opinion and I'm standing by it.

All that having been said, I was heartened by the fact that some small business lobbying groups are waking up to the fact that the estate tax repeal will increase the taxes paid by small business owners and others who are only "moderately" wealthy (and, increase taxes paid by individuals who are not really wealthy at all). In a future posting, I hope to be able to name names of some of the really, really wealthy who will reap a disproportionate benefit from the repeal of the estate tax.

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