By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital
August 29, 2004
Admittedly, I get too much of my news from easy sources, like radio and
television. I havenít read much about Mayor Mike Ragsdaleís new tax
proposal, but I hear it discussed on the local radio stations and often
mentioned on television. And I am shocked that the guy I voted for would
propose this unfair, regressive $30 tax.
I agree with callers to the Hallerin Hilton Hill radio show: Knox County does
not need a will tax.
Sadly, the people who are often most in need of estate planning will be
discouraged from seeing someone who can help them, simply because of the
perception Ė and the reality Ė that the government is going to tax them for
doing something they and their family desperately need. The county
government should not tax people for preparing wills.
Whatís next? A tax return tax? What about a plumbing tax? A
will tax is only the beginning.
Too many people already procrastinate when it comes to preparing a
will. It is a difficult process that forces you to contemplate unpleasant
possibilities. Why add to that difficulty by charging someone a $30
will tax? What about codicils? Will those cost $15? Once we
let the camelís nose under the tent, living wills and durable powers of attorney
wonít be far behind.
We are already taxed to death. Everywhere we turn, there are more
nickel and dime, rinky-dink taxes to pay. I get sick and tired of elected
officials telling me I donít pay my fair share. Just how much is a fair
There must be something sinister at work here. This is about more than
just $30 per will. I think I know the real motivation behind this
movement. Who benefits if fewer people have wills? Probate court,
thatís who. Follow the money. If we can trace this will tax scheme
back to its origin, I bet someone in the probate court is behind it. Every
time someone dies without a will, his or her estate goes through probate.
Increasing the cost to prepare a will would discourage proper estate planning,
drive more estates into probate - ultimately increasing the revenues and market
share of the probate court.
This proposal incited a group of Knoxvillians to gather more than 20 thousand
signatures in opposition to the $30 will tax. This is democracy in
action. Active citizenry makes for better government. It certainly
makes for easier and less costly estate planning.
I would love to see a new downtown library, teacher pay raises, 15 new high
schools and free bagels for everyone on Thursdays. But I donít want to see
increased obstacles that might place the cost of estate planning out of the
reach of some moderate income families or senior citizens.
This will tax is a stupid idea. If the county really needs to raise
additional funds and not just bow to the whims of a powerful probate court, it
ought to consider taxing something more broad based, like
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a
Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article
originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).