House of Representatives Votes to Repeal Estate Tax

The federal estate tax, originally established as part of the Revenue Act of 1916, has been a feature of the American tax system for nearly a century.  If the House of Representatives has its way, the tax will not see its 100th birthday.  On Thursday, April 16, 2015, the House passed a bill to repeal the federal estate tax in its entirety.  H.R. 1105, the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015, passed on a 240-170 vote, largely along party lines. 

The passage of the bill has reignited a long-standing debate concerning the economic impact of the estate tax.  Advocates of repeal argue that the estate tax is confiscatory in nature and imposes an unfair burden on the heirs of family-owned farms and businesses who may be forced to liquidate assets and lay off employees to pay the tax. 

Those opposed to the bill cite the fact that the repeal is not offset with other revenue increases or spending cuts, and would thus increase the deficit and shift a greater share of the nation’s tax burden onto the shoulders of less-fortunate Americans.  Furthermore, opponents of repeal argue that the estate tax exemption level is significantly high that only 0.2% of estates are liable for any estate tax, and for the few estates that are large enough to incur liability, provisions in the Internal Revenue Code alleviate the burden on family businesses by permitting executors to pay estate taxes in annual installments over a period of a decade or more.      

2015 Federal Estate Tax Rates     

For taxpayers who die in 2015, the federal estate tax applies to estates with assets in excess of $5.43 million for individuals or $10.86 million for married couples. Assets above these thresholds are taxed at a top statutory rate of 40%.  The exemption amounts are increased each year for inflation.  The United States Congress Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that only 5,400 of the anticipated 2.6 million estates of decedents dying in 2015 will be subject to federal estate taxes.    

Commentators agree that the vote to repeal the estate tax was largely symbolic and that H.R. 1105 stands little chance of becoming law.  Although the bill was passed by the House of Representatives, a test vote held in the Senate in March came up 6 votes shy of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster.  Furthermore, President Obama has threatened to exercise his veto pen in the unlikely event the bill makes it to his desk.  Past attempts to repeal the estate tax have also failed to generate sufficient bipartisan support to become law.

Contact us with questions about the implications of the federal estate tax bill and visit the Schneider Downs Tax Advisory Services page for a full listing of our service offerings.

You’ve heard our thoughts… We’d like to hear yours

The Schneider Downs Our Thoughts On blog exists to create a dialogue on issues that are important to organizations and individuals. While we enjoy sharing our ideas and insights, we’re especially interested in what you may have to say. If you have a question or a comment about this article – or any article from the Our Thoughts On blog – we hope you’ll share it with us. After all, a dialogue is an exchange of ideas, and we’d like to hear from you. Email us at

Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

© 2020 Schneider Downs. All rights-reserved. All content on this site is property of Schneider Downs unless otherwise noted and should not be used without written permission.

our thoughts on

Pennsylvania EITC Applications Open July 1
Tax BY Antoinette Luchini
Definitions of Real and Incidental Property in New Like-Kind Exchange Regulations
The Supreme Court and Affordable Care Act Constitutionality - Protecting Your Ability to Recover Prior Year Federal Taxes
IRS Guidance Provided on the Silo of CARES Act NOLs
Additional Guidance and Relief for Opportunity Zones from the IRS
What to Expect During a Sale Transaction

Register to receive our weekly newsletter with our most recent columns and insights.

Have a question? Ask us!

We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a note, and we’ll respond to you as quickly as possible.

Ask us

contact us

Map of Pittsburgh Office

One PPG Place, Suite 1700
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
p:412.261.3644     f:412.261.4876

Map of Columbus Office

65 East State Street, Suite 2000
Columbus, OH 43215
p:614.621.4060     f:614.621.4062

Map of Washington Office
Washington, D.C.

1660 International Drive, Suite 600
McLean, VA 22102