CHEYENNE, Wyo.—U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis says some of her Wyoming constituents are so worried about the reinstatement of federal estate taxes that they plan to discontinue dialysis and other life-extending medical treatments so they can die before Dec. 31.
Lummis, a Republican who holds her state's lone seat in the House, declined to name any of the people who have made the comments.
But she said many ranchers and farmers in the state would rather pass along their businesses -- "their life's work" -- to their children and grandchildren than see the federal government take a large chunk.
"If you have spent your whole life building a ranch, and you wanted to pass your estate on to your children, and you were 88-years-old and on dialysis, and the only thing that was keeping you alive was that dialysis, you might make that same decision," Lummis told reporters.
Lummis and other Republicans are fighting to renew the Bush-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year. The cuts exempt large inheritances as well as certain wage income, interest, dividends and capital gains.
The estate tax, first enacted in 1916, temporarily disappeared for 2010 while political wrangling stalemated efforts to revise it. The tax's top rate in 2009 was 45 percent, but estates smaller than $3.5 million -- or $7 million in the case of married couples -- were exempt. That left less than 1 percent of all estates subject to the tax.
Without further action from Congress, the estate tax will return in 2011 and will affect more heirs, with a lower exemption -- $1 million -- and a higher top rate -- 55 percent.
Lummis said the children of some people choosing death over taxes told her of their parents' decision. She wouldn't identify them and said it would be their decision to come forward.