U.S. Capital Gains and Estate Taxation: A Status Report and Directions for a Reform

44 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2016

See all articles by Wojciech Kopczuk

Wojciech Kopczuk

Columbia University - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences - Department of Economics; Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: March 2016

Abstract

Recent changes in the U.S. estate taxation significantly reduced its reach and revenue, although the tax continues to contribute to progressivity of the overall tax system and is likely to play a role in influencing the long term concentration of wealth. I discuss recent changes, empirical evidence and theory applying to this form of taxation. I then discuss directions for a reform of the tax. The interaction between estate taxation and other components of the tax system is most important in the context of capital gains, with step up in basis partially compensating for high marginal rates while at the same time creating very strong deferral incentives. Modifying this interaction is long overdue and experience from the temporary repeal of the tax in 2010 is helpful in understanding challenges. I discuss options for modifying this interaction, including implications both for estate tax design and for the great majority of taxpayers who are not subject to the estate tax. Eliminating the step-up in basis would allow for increasing the efficiency of the tax system, while the additional revenue could be used to either mitigate the consequences for the affected taxpayers by reducing the estate tax burden or increasing the overall progressivity. I note that any exemption for capital gains at death does retain deferral incentives for individuals with unrealized capital gains smaller than the exemption and suggest that a lifetime exemption would have better incentive properties. I also note that the treatment of spousal transfers under any capital gains at death approach is critical for the revenue implications.

Keywords: capital gains tax, Estate tax

JEL Classification: H20, H30

Suggested Citation

Kopczuk, Wojciech, U.S. Capital Gains and Estate Taxation: A Status Report and Directions for a Reform (March 2016). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11208, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2766536

Wojciech Kopczuk (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences - Department of Economics ( email )

420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA)

420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
0
Abstract Views
305
PlumX Metrics