Death Watch for the Estate Tax?

Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 15, Number 1—Winter 2001—Pages 205–218

15 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2014

See all articles by William G. Gale

William G. Gale

Brookings Institution

Joel B. Slemrod

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: Winter 2001

Abstract

The idea of making death a taxable event infuriates some people. Winston Churchill called estate taxes an attempt to tax dead people rather than the living. Steve Forbes campaigned in favor of “no taxation without respiration.” Bruce Bartlett (1997) points out that a key plank in the Communist Manifesto was the abolition of inheritance rights. Opponents deride the “death tax” as inefficient, inequitable and complex, violating every norm of good tax policy. Supporters counter that the criticisms are overstated or wrong, and argue that a highly progressive tax that patches loopholes, helps provide equality of opportunity, breaks up concentrations of wealth and encourages charitable giving can’t be all bad. These debates raise a number of research questions for economists.

Keywords: estate tax

JEL Classification: H24

Suggested Citation

Gale, William G. and Slemrod, Joel B., Death Watch for the Estate Tax? (Winter 2001). Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 15, Number 1—Winter 2001—Pages 205–218. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2460905

William G. Gale (Contact Author)

Brookings Institution ( email )

1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
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202-797-6148 (Phone)
202-797-6181 (Fax)

Joel B. Slemrod

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Room R5396
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1234
United States
734-936-3914 (Phone)
734-763-4032 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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United States

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