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Researcher: Estate Tax Smart and Progressive

June 13, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Eliminating Ohio's estate tax would be a blow to local governments already struggling to pay for essential public services, a new report finds. The estate tax generates revenue by taxing the transfer of an estate's assets, and its opponents argue that the tax is a drain on local economies.

However, new research from Policy Matters Ohio says the tax generated more than $300 million for the state last year, with the majority of those dollars going to local governments. Report author Zach Schiller says repealing the tax would be devastating for communities already reeling from a huge cut in the Local Government Fund and lower reimbursements for lost property taxes.

"Hundreds and hundreds of townships, villages and cities across Ohio regularly receive revenue from this and depend on it. Many of them, in fact, are townships that receive a significant amount every year and include it as a part of their budget."

Schiller, Policy Matters Ohio research director, calls the estate tax "smart" and "progressive," since it only affects estates worth more than $338,000. Additionally, he points out, the study found only 8 percent of Ohioans ever pay it.

Both the House and Senate versions of the state budget call for repealing the estate tax in 2013. Those in favor of the repeal say the estate tax forces people out of Ohio. Schiller says that's an unfounded claim.

"Michigan, right next door, doesn't really have an estate tax. I don't think we're finding that many more people are staying in Michigan because there's no estate tax or leaving Ohio because we have one."

While opponents complain that the estate tax hurts small-business owners and farms, Schiller says because of an additional exemption, many family farms do not pay the tax. Hardly any estates that include farms or small businesses take advantage of a provision that allows them to avoid paying the tax for up to 15 years, he adds.

The Ohio budget needs to be approved by July 1.

The report is at www.PolicyMattersOhio.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH