Two weeks ago the New York Times reported a story that, due to financial difficulty, Annie Leibovitz needed to take a loan out against the rights to all her works, totaling $15 million.
The Times describes Leibovitz's financial difficulty as stemming from a $700,000 law suit, being over-extended on her Chelsea Photo Studio, dealing with the estate of recently deceased parents, as well as the mortgages owed on property inherited from Susan Sontag, her lover, who passed away five years ago. Last week, Afterellen writer Julia Miranda mischaracterized the nature of Leibovitz's financial problems as being about the inequities of gay partnerships versus the benefits of marriage.
What struck me about her [Liebovitz’s] story was that most of her financial woes stemmed from her inheritance of her long-time partner, Susan Sontag’s, estate.
Not only is this stretching the truth, but Miranda’s story is based on her own assumptions, at best.
Same-sex couples do not have the same privileges as straight married couples when it comes to inheritance. If your partner passes away and leaves her estate to you, you have to pay up to 50 percent of the value of your inheritance in taxes.
This over-simplification is a total misrepresentation of the issues. I’m not sure if the gay press has just become lazy or they are just looking for ways to sensationalize gay issues, but the Advocate and Queerty picked up Miranda’s story calling the estate tax the “Gay Tax” without explaining what the tax is or the issues surrounding Leibovitz’s financial woes.
The estate tax is a tax on wealth. It was put in place about 100 years ago as a levy on inherited assets, and only affects .27% of all American families. If you want to give the estate tax a moniker, let's call it “Rich People's Tax” or “Rich Gay People's Tax.” It is the only wealth tax this country has.
Taxing the rich is how President Obama plans to minimize the deficit without raising taxes on the middle class. Hello?! Basically 99% of us gays and straights will not ever pay the estate tax. During the Clinton years, the estate tax of 55% was levied on inheritance above $1 million. That meant, if your rich uncle died today and left you a million bucks, you would receive it tax-free.