Richer millionaires who are more likely to pay estate taxes tend to feel a little better about the taxes than lower-tier millionaires do.
Researchers at Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford, have released figures supporting that conclusion in a compilation of results from a recent survey of 750 members of households with annual incomes of $150,000 or more and at least $1 million in total assets.
The asset minimum includes real estate as well as financial assets.
About 37% of the millionaires surveyed said they had not taken any steps to plan their estates, and about 24% of the participants with $5 million or more in assets said they have not even written a will.
Current federal law calls for the estate tax to vanish in 2010 and return to high 2001 levels in 2011.
Only 8.5% of the survey participants expect to see permanent estate tax repeal, and 18% expect to see exemptions rise to $3.5 million per person, from $2 million today. About 53% expect to see no change in the federal estate tax exemption.
But about 24% of all participants, 35% with more than $5 million in assets, said they are more concerned about estate taxes this year than last year because their states have enacted or increased estate taxes or similar taxes.
The researchers found that 73% of all participants said they most agreed with the statement that the estate tax is “double taxation and it’s unfair,” or that “It’s a hideous tax on death.”
But the researchers found that 79% of the participants with $1 million to $2 million in assets, who would not be subject to estate taxes under current exemption rules, said they felt that way, while only 72% of the participants with more than $5 million shared those sentiments.
The proportion of participants who said they most agreed with the statements that, “The very rich deserve to pay more taxes, or that the estate tax is “a necessary evil to help the federal government meet its expenses” or “a necessary tax to ensure a level economic playing field for future generations” was only about 20% for participants with $1 million to $2 million in assets and about 27% for participants with more than $5 million in assets.
The percentage of participants who said the federal government should increase the estate tax rate was only 1% for participants with $1 million to $2 million in assets and more than 12% for participants with more than $5 million in assets.