University of British Columbia (UBC), Faculty of Law
(2005) 3 Pittsburgh Tax Review 72
When the United States acted to phase-out its estate tax by 2010, it joined a small but growing group of countries which have also repealed their wealth transfer taxes. In Canada, federal gift and estate taxes were repealed in 1972 and provincial wealth transfer taxes were abolished in the 1970s and 1980s. In Australia, State and Commonwealth wealth transfer taxes were repealed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. New Zealand followed suit in the 1990s, reducing estate tax rates to zero in 1992 and repealing the tax in 1999. This paper reviews the abolition of wealth transfer taxes in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, relying on public choice theories of politically efficient revenue structures to help explain the repeal of these taxes in each country. Part II outlines the essential elements of public choice theory and its implications for tax policy. Part III surveys the history of wealth transfer taxes in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, examining in detail the events leading up to the repeal of these taxes, and illustrating the relevance of public choice theory to their abolition in each country. Part IV offers brief conclusions on the significance of this experience for the future of wealth transfer taxation in these and other countries.