Taxes and Estate Planning

In the 1950s and 1960s our company had an Estate Planning department. Estate Planning (it is so far in the distant philatelic past that it needs explanation) was advice to philatelists on what to do with their collections after they died, especially with regards to estate tax appraisals. This was needed because the level at which estates became taxable was much lower in 1970 than it is today (It was $600,000 vs $5 million now) and because many fewer people engaged in tax planning with regards to their non philatelic assets so that even at the lower tax threshold rate of the 1960s many estates were taxable that wouldn’t be today given the sophisticated estate planning that many wealthy people  use.

In the 1960s we sold many collections for estates and were involved in many estate tax appraisals. But now, estate work rarely crops up. Many widows and children call us after their loved ones pass away but, today, the collections are almost never part of an estate. The estate exemption is now $10 million for a couple which means the vast majority of estates simply have no Federal tax liability. But even more often, collections simply “disappear” after a death, only to resurface years later as one of the children’s collection. No one likes taxes. I know I don’t. But it is remarkable how tax intolerant we have become, almost as if government’s only role is to provide services and defense, but never to need to have to pay for it. The tax rates of the 1960s were far higher than they are today and there were far fewer exemptions. But tax compliance with those more stringent laws was far greater than now. And yet it didn’t seem to us that we had it so bad. Certainly, the deficits were lower and the middle class was thriving.

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