Imposto sobre as grandes, muito grandes e mesmo super-super grandes Fortunas

"Conservatives call it the death tax.

Lawyers call it the estate tax.

I grew up hearing it called the inheritance tax"


Gates Sr. supports estate tax

His son agrees with him, as do billionaires Warren Buffett, David Rockefeller Sr. and others.

By Jim Hopkins, USA TODAY


The stakes are enormous, especially for the 1% of U.S. households who control 38% of private wealth, Gates says.

SAN FRANCISCO — President Bush, in pushing big tax cuts for America's wealthiest, is about to get an earful from an unlikely opponent, again. Bill Gates Sr. — father of the co-founder of Microsoft who is the USA's richest man — is fighting to keep Bush from killing the estate tax that hits the super-rich but also some small-business owners and farmers.

His son agrees with him, as do billionaires Warren Buffett, David Rockefeller Sr. and others. (Background: Arguments for and against saving tax)

Why? Gates, 78, says the wealthy should pay the tax because they owe a special debt. Their riches, he says, would not be possible without a strong society supporting capitalism.

"Most of the things that have generated the enormous advances in our economy are things that started on some campus or in some laboratory," Gates said in an exclusive interview last week. "And most of those are because the government financed it."

Gates, a semiretired lawyer who runs the $24 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, isn't an idle advocate. He's so passionate about it that he recently wrote a book on the subject — his first — and is hitting the publicity circuit this week to use his name and book to battle Bush, who last week proposed killing the tax for good as part of his $674 billion economic stimulus plan. "I'm relishing it," Gates says of the upcoming battle in Congress.

So are his well-armed opponents. They blame the tax for the deaths of untold small businesses and farms each year. Some of the most powerful corporate and private interests have lined up behind Bush, as they did two years ago.

Big issues at stake

The stakes are enormous, especially for the 1% of U.S. households who control 38% of private wealth, Gates says. Under current law, the estate of someone worth $1 billion would have to cough up as much as $490 million in taxes after he or she dies. Eliminate the tax, and the heirs would gain that much.

The tax generates about $30 billion in annual federal revenue, about 1% of all, Gates says. That doesn't sound like much, but it will likely go higher as thousands of Americans who amassed fortunes in recent decades begin to die, putting up for grabs as much as $136.2 trillion in wealth.

The effort by Gates, Buffett and others is not as odd as it might seem. Gates' son, with $43 billion, and Buffett, with $36 billion, have said they'll give most of their fortunes to charity, which will reduce estate taxes.

The estate tax stems from a 1916 law that taxes the value of property, stocks and other assets valued above certain amounts when someone dies. Unless it is killed, the tax, the dollar values and the tax rates, will reduce gradually until 2010, when the tax will be repealed for one year. Then it reverts to 2001 levels.

Most Americans will never pay the tax because their estates are too small, Gates says in Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes (Beacon Press, $25). Only about 2% of estates qualify each year. But it is those estates and their powerful families that concern Gates.

Without the tax, he says, their wealth could grow to a point where they could have too much control over the national agenda. (See story, right.)

Round 2

Gates first battled to keep the tax in 2001. Bush had been elected the year before and revived the idea to kill it.

Gates, with little political experience, says in his book that he was "stunned" and "astonished" by the buzz saw of opposition to his campaign to save the tax. It included newspaper ads across the nation warning, "Don't Believe the Elitist Millionaire Con."

In the end, the tax was kept but sharply reduced, a loss for Gates and his supporters at a Boston non-profit, Responsible Wealth. Chuck Collins, one of the group's co-founders, worked with Gates on the book.

Gates admits this round could be likewise tough and his impact unclear.

A book about estate taxes, even one written by someone with a marquee name, is unlikely to make best-seller lists dominated by spy thrillers and diet advice. He's giving it his best shot, though, starting this week with TV appearances, including one Thursday on NBC's Today.

The newly Republican Congress, looking for ways to stimulate the economy, is focusing more than ever on tax cuts. And just 25% of Americans surveyed by Gallup said the tax should be saved, according to a February 2001 poll, the most recent.

Still, it won't be a cakewalk for Bush, says Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution think tank. He cites congressional fears over "growing deficit projections and the possibility of big outlays for a war in Iraq and its aftermath."

At a minimum, Gates wants a "more robust debate" than the one he says took place two years ago. "We're the underdog," he says. "But underdogs won a lot of football games this fall."