In Response Column: Higher estate taxation means less charitable giving

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Dave Goldberg
We are part of The Trust Project.

I was insulted by and disappointed in the opinion column from retired college professor Donald E. Maypole, published Feb. 28 in the News Tribune under the headline, “Adjusting estate taxes a push toward wealth equity.”

The column’s thinking seemed to parallel that of a communist system where there is no incentive to work hard or to achieve some degree of financial success. Most dangerous is the number of students the writer has influenced over the years.

I couldn’t help but wonder as I read about business operators who’ve struggled to meet payroll for employees dependant on on-time paychecks. I thought about those who’ve had to put second mortgages on their homes to stay afloat. Financially successful people are a source of substantial charitable giving. Take that away and our valuable nonprofits would be unable to fulfill their missions.

The federal and state estate inheritance taxes are the most regressive in existence. They penalize people who have taken risk, worked hard, personally sacrificed, and paid income taxes on their earnings. Currently in Minnesota, higher-earning people pay approximately 48% of their income for federal and state income taxes. When they die, the federal government wants up to another 45% of their estate over the allowed exemption, and Minnesota wants up to 16%. My math tells me that I have only 22% of what I earned to leave to my family.

As Maypole stated, only 25% of the 50 states have a state inheritance estate tax; 75% understand what a regressive tax it is.


He was right that many Minnesotans have changed their residency because of Minnesota’s high income tax and the state inheritance tax.

The thinking in Maypole’s commentary would lead us further into the socialist black hole. Society will not survive where you take from some to give to others; there is no gain. Our capitalist system makes opportunity available to anyone who wants to earn it and has created a strong, vibrant country.

Our citizens, and particularly high-income earners, need to continue to be cognizant of the needs of the less fortunate and to support programs that benefit those who have legitimate needs.

I write this as a person who believes in our free-enterprise system, where people of modest means who are disciplined, work hard, and are smart can enjoy financial success. You will find that these are the people committed to “giving back” to the community.

I get upset when people don’t understand or appreciate the sacrifice and effort that goes into trying to be successful. As a society, we need to value that and not get influenced by socialistic rhetoric and shallow promises.

Dave Goldberg of Duluth is a small-business operator and philanthropist.

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