Only 379 of the North Carolinians who died last year owed any estate tax — which means the tax affected half of one percent of all Tar Heel estates. But nationally, that tax on estates of $1 million or more is expected to generate more than $23 billion.

That’s why N.C. Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center Director Elaine Mejia says this is no time to cut it.

‘The estate tax is the most progressive part of the federal tax code,” she said in a release today (PDF). ‘At a time when the wealth gap between rich and poor is at its greatest level since 1929, slashing the tax would hurt working families even more.”

Mejia cites a national report (PDF) by Citizens for Tax Justice that calls on the Obama administration to do more to preserve the tax Bush plans to phase out by 2010.

Mejia says raising the threshold above $1 million would reduce the number of middle class families affected by the tax. But she says, “eliminating the tax is simply ludicrous.”