With Timing of Death, Steinbrenner Family Won't Pay Estate Tax

The timing of George Steinbrenner’s death may have ensured that the New York Yankees franchise stays in the family.

Because of a lapse in the federal estate tax, Steinbrenner’s family is saving about $500 million that they would have otherwise had to pay Uncle Sam. The 45 percent tax expired in January and starts up again in 2011 at 55 percent.

The 80-year-old Steinbrenner died yesterday after a massive heart attack in Tampa, Fla.  He was credited with building the Yankees, perhaps the most storied team in baseball, back to a number 1 franchise during his 37 years as owner.  A controversial figure, he was also an iconic figure in New York sports and pop culture.

If Steinbrenner’s family would have had to pay the death tax, which the government formerly collected nine months after the person’s death, they would have likely had to sell their most valuable asset – a 55 percent stake in the Yankees’ parent company.

Other assets, like the Steinbrenner family farm in Ocala, Fla., which brings in about $5 million in revenue a year, or their $4 million home in Tampa, just don’t add up, according to The New York Post.

Only two percent of the population, or about 64,000 estates, makes enough to be subject to the tax, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The repeal of the tax is sapping about $55 billion in revenue from the federal government. This year, about 4,500 families with very large estates will be receiving as much in annual tax reductions as 140 million taxpayers, according to the Washington-based nonprofit.

When former Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie died, his family sold their share in the football franchise to pay the $45 million they owed in taxes.

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