Originally Published January 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will unveil a plan Thursday to dramatically expand the federal estate tax on the wealthy, including a new 77 percent rate on billionaires’ estates, as leading Democratic politicians push new taxes on the richest Americans to combat inequality.

Sanders’s bill, the “For the 99.8% Act,” would tax the estates of the 0.2 percent of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million, while the rest of the country “would not see their taxes go up by one penny under this plan,” according to aides to the Vermont senator, who is considering a 2020 presidential bid.

Three top Republican senators this week released a plan to outright abolish the estate tax, which the GOP already significantly weakened with their 2017 tax law to only apply to those passing on more than $11 million (or $22 million for couples). Sanders’s plan would restore the 77 percent top estate tax rate that was in place in the U.S. from 1941 to 1976, tax estates worth more than $3.5 million, and create several new estate tax brackets, including a 55 percent rate on estates worth more than $50 million.

“It is literally beyond belief that the Republican leadership wants to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 0.2 percent of our population. . . . This is not only insane, it tells us the degree to which the billionaire class controls the Republican Party,” said Sanders, who introduced the plan with the support of Thomas Piketty, a well-known French economist on wealth consolidation. “Our bill does what the American people want us to be doing and that is to demand that the very wealthiest families in this country start paying their fair share of taxes.”

The plan would raise $2.2 trillion from 588 billionaires, but over an unknown period of time because it would only take effect once they die, according to Sanders’s staff. Over the next decade, the tax would raise $315 billion, policy aides said.

The senator’s push comes the week after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has already announced her bid for the White House, released an “Ultra Millionaire” tax that would levy a 2 percent annual tax on those with more than $50 million, as well as a 3 percent annual tax on those with more than $1 billion. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) also recently floated a 70 percent marginal tax rate on those making more than $10 million.

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