Houston's Dan Duncan: First U.S. Billionaire To Die And Pay No Tax Whatsoever On His Estate

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The New York Times today examines the strange case of Dan Duncan, the low-key but fabulously rich Houstonian who died earlier this year.

Because of politics and a resulting quirk in the law, it's possible his heirs will get his estate and pay absolutely no tax on it. No U.S. billionaire has ever been able to do that.

Had his life ended three months earlier, Mr. Duncan's riches -- Forbes magazine estimated his worth at $9 billion, ranking him as the 74th wealthiest in the world -- would have been subject to a federal tax of at least 45 percent. If he had lived past Jan. 1, 2011, the rate would be even higher -- 55 percent.

Instead, because Congress allowed the tax to lapse for one year and gave all estates a free pass in 2010, Mr. Duncan's four children and four grandchildren stand to collect billions that in any other year would have gone to the Treasury.


The one-year lapse was signed into law by George W. Bush; Democrats pledged to rescind it but their effort got bogged down in the usual wrangling.

And so Duncan's heirs, already pretty damn lucky people, hit the lottery bigtime.

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