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
Date Written: Winter 2001
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: Suggested Citation