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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 13, 2021

A 61% federal tax that would have been rarely applied is not under consideration

If Your Time is short

  • President Joe Biden proposed two changes in law that together would have created a 61% effective tax rate on an example $100 million estate.

  • But it would have applied only to very large estates. And it is not part of the budget bill now being debated in Congress.

No, the infrastructure bill backed by President Joe Biden wouldn’t create a per-mile driving tax (False) or a 3% property tax (Pants on Fire).

How about a 61% tax on wealth and estates?

That’s the exaggerated claim made in a viral image that says:

"How Many Citizens Are Actually Aware Under Part 2 Of The Infrastructure Bill, Upon Death The Entire Value Of Your Accumulated Wealth & Estate Will Be Taxed At 61%?"

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Biden did make such a proposal — but it would have applied to few estates, only those worth nearly $12 million or more. 

Moreover, the proposal is not currently included in a budget reconciliation bill being debated in Congress.

A proposal that isn’t pending

Biden’s American Families Plan (not his infrastructure plan), which was released in April, included two proposals to end what it described as tax "loopholes" for the rich. They would have covered capital gains and estates.

Capital gains taxes apply to the appreciation of an asset. A capital gain is the difference between the cost of the asset when you bought it and the value of the asset when you sell it. 

Estate taxes apply to the value of an estate when the owner dies and the assets are distributed to others.

Broadly speaking, the Biden proposals would have raised the top capital gains tax rate to match the rate on earned income, and changed the way capital gains are calculated on inherited assets, so that a greater share of investment gains would be subject to capital-gains and estate taxes. 

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But the two changes would have applied to very few estates — only those worth more than $11.7 million that also had unrealized capital gains worth more than $1 million. 

On a $100 million estate, according to the Tax Foundation, the combination of the two Biden proposals would have resulted in a tax of $61 million, or an effective tax rate of 61%. 

But the two proposals are not part of the budget reconciliation bill approved Sept. 15 by the House Ways and Means Committee. 

And according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, "there has been no discussion of including major portions of this proposal by lawmakers."

Currently, individual estates worth up to $11.7 million (about $23.4 million for couples) are exempt from the estate tax. Any amount above that is subject to the tax, which tops out at 40%. 

The bill being considered would apply the estate tax to more estates — those worth about $6 million or more (about $12 million for couples), with estates worth less than that paying no estate tax, said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center. 

That bill would apply to only a few thousand estates, Gleckman said. 

The Tax Policy Center and the Tax Foundation did not estimate how many estates Biden’s proposal would have applied to. But the number would have been far more than a few thousand, Gleckman said.

Our ruling

A viral image stated: "Under part 2 of the infrastructure bill, upon death the entire value of your accumulated wealth and estate will be taxed at 61%."

The claim wrongly suggests that this is an active part of legislation that would be broadly applied to the entire value of all estates.

Biden did propose two tax changes that, according to the Tax Foundation, would have created an effective 61% tax rate on an example estate of $100 million, including capital gains and estate taxes. The proposal was not in his infrastructure plan, but in a separate plan. It would have applied only to very large estates. 

However, the proposals are not currently included in a budget reconciliation bill now being debated in Congress.

We rate the post False.

Our Sources

Facebook, post, Oct. 10, 2021, "H.R.3684 - Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act," accessed Oct. 11, 2021

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "As tax changes loom, farmers worry about the next generation," June 19, 2021

Tax Foundation, "Joe Biden’s 61 Percent Tax on Wealth," April 29, 2021

Email, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget spokesperson Kim McIntyre, Oct. 12, 2021

White House, "FACT SHEET: The American Families Plan," April 28, 2021

Email, Garrett Watson, Tax Foundation senior policy analyst, Oct. 12, 2021

Email, Howard Gleckman, Tax Policy Center senior fellow, Oct. 12, 2021

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A 61% federal tax that would have been rarely applied is not under consideration

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