South Dakota: the Bermuda of the prairie, letting billionaires avoid millions in estate tax


“Up against the wall. Put this on.”
“I don’t want a blindfold.”
“It’s not a blindfold, it’s a gag.”


South Dakota isn’t the only state that doesn’t have a death tax.


The phrase “death tax” is bullshit promulgated by wealthy opponents to income taxes of all kinds.


Doesn’t South Dakota have one of the largest interest rates allowable, and that’s why credit card companies so often base themselves out of there too. I assume in the same, doesn’t really create jobs, just needs a small storefront, way?


Alternatively, North Dakota has a state-run bank.


Thanks for your kind words, you seem to be a person of genuine wisdom and scholarly knowledge.

As a bit of anecdotal evidence, the first usage I recall of this phrase was from my grandfather back in the 70s. I assure you he was not a rich man, nor was he particularly the type to associate with “wealthy opponents of income taxes of all kinds”, merely a lower middle class life long Democrat who spent much of his life in city and state politics assuring the working man got a fair shake. A person doesn’t have to be wealthy to want to ensure a reasonable inheritance to their children.


It’s not the avoidance of a states tax (though it doesn’t have an inheritance tax) it’s that they created trust laws that allow individuals to avoid paying the federal (and state) taxes on dynastic trusts that they would have to pay in the nontraitorous parts of the country.


Why haven’t we set up Visa and Mastercard to be our country’s tax collectors? It’s the only fair way.


is on the order of 5-10 million dollars reasonable? because with bypass trusts 2 people can leave that much money to their offspring with no federal estate tax. this “death tax” stuff is BS. for 99.999% of us it does not exist.


“Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one’s affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant.”

  • Judge Learned Hand, Commissioner v. Newman, 159 F2d 848 (1947)

Is there anybody out there who -doesn’t- want to keep their money? There are charities aplenty – donate freely to your hearts content.

In Football/Soccer, only the Goalie can touch the ball with their hands. Is this a Loophole? No - it’s part of the game. Loophole compared to other States? That’s part of having 50 different State governments. If one creates poor conditions do live or do business, you are free to move to another with better conditions.

Oh, but they’re just renting a storefront? What do other states require? Many Delaware corporations reside there due to favorable taxation and the legal environment. South Dakota is getting in on the game for Trust Funds.

But it’s a huge pile of money that isn’t doing anything! Maybe, maybe not. Whether it’s cash or not, somebody is holding it for them and making a living doing so. More likely, it’s invested in stocks, bonds, and other instruments, just like any pension plan, and those invested in are making use of it. If having a pile of money in one place is a bad thing, then so are all things related to investments by that reasoning.

But it’s just one person/family! That’s not fair! Compared to what? What is the moral/civic reasoning to sieze property simply because it belongs to someone else (N.B. Kelo v City of New London)? Good intent is no guarantor of good results.

What about the Dead Hand (see the Lord Nottingham link)? This one makes sense. Many, many types of contracts and trusts are invalid when they are designed to injure another party. There is a moral and civic case to prohibit them. To build a Trust in perpetuity denies the Trustee from taking advantage of the whole of it’s contents now, to meet some urgency, and may harm the contents by preventing adjustments to the investment structure, depending on how the Trust was designed. Do you then kill the golden goose just because you opened the cage? Tax the consumption and leave the principle alone to continue growing. Consider the outrage against corporations having billions in off-shore profits. From the corporations point of view, either they bring the money back to the US minus the hefty tax on doing so, or leave it overseas to fund things there. The tax code is a barrier to repatriation. Likewise, if taxes permitted pulling a sum from the trust for a modest effect (above and beyond the regularly scheduled payouts, if any), there would be more incentive to do so, and that money would be back in public circulation.

So – is this a Bad Thing? Compared to what? How much does it cost? Show me the evidence. Lack of desired results according to your social expectations is not necessarily an automatic “bad”.


Oh really? I’ve lost 15% of my parent’s estate to the state just because they died. What would you call that again?

Not because of standing taxes owed. Not because of trust design. Not because of investment income. Not because of re-appraisal of property. Not because of tax-shelter failure. Not because of outstanding debts.

They died. “Pay up. Now,” said The State.

Sounds like a Death Tax to me.


However, the phrase “death tax” achieved currency under the Bush (43) Administration, regardless of what your grandfather said in the 70s.

The Estate Tax affects only 1% of American families. Nevertheless, the GOP has successfully spun it as a “death tax” - and death is something we all have in common, right? Likewise, it has large and generous loopholes for family farms and businesses - nevertheless, it was described as “destroying family farms.” No family farm has ever been auctioned, in whole or in part, to pay Estate Tax.

The Republican plan was successful. The Estate Tax was repealed - although only for one year. As a result, taxes on the wealthiest 1%, already at historic lows, plummeted. Tax revenues shrank. And we keep telling ourselves America is broke, and can’t afford to do great things any more.


I feel for you. It must be hard having parents so wealthy they are subject to the Estate tax. And paying for those roads and schools and police? Socialism!


Above you said "Tax the consumption and leave the principle alone to continue growing. "

Are you your parents? Taxing the consumption IS taxing the transference & vice-versa. Next time around remember to have smarter parents that dole it out while still alive, most limitations on that allow for significant tax-free transference.

Whining that you shouldn’t be taxed on a transaction because it was your 'rents money sounds like the same sort of social expectations you openly decry above, moocher.


It wasn’t a “death tax” then or now, your justification which boils down to

“don’t insult my grandfather, that’s not fair even though it was stupid when he said it too, because he was one of you, I meant uhm, one of us”

sounds wholly contrived & changes nothing about the term, or your own usage of it.


Really? Why do you assume they were wealthy? Why do you assume that their taxes in life did not pay for roads, schools, and police? Why do you assume the state has a right to seize property just because they willed it to their children?

Edit - In response to those asking about the 15%, it was a State tax, not Federal. Either way, it’s still a Tax on Having Died.


TL;DR: “Let them eat cake!”


Ha, a stream of crazed assumptive questions in response to an assumptive statement. Clever.

That money has already been taxed once, as income tax or capital gain. Death taxes are taxing it again.