Alternatives to the Gift and Estate Tax

21 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2016 Last revised: 15 Jul 2017

See all articles by David G. Duff

David G. Duff

Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

Date Written: April 26, 2016


Following the near death experience of the federal gift and estate tax in 2010, the hundredth anniversary of the tax represents an ideal moment to reflect on the role of this tax and whether an alternative approach might be more desirable and sustainable. This Article examines four prominent alternatives to the current tax: an annual wealth tax, taxing unrealized gains at death, including gifts and inheritances in income, and a lifetime accessions tax that would apply to the cumulative value of gifts and inheritances received by individuals over their lifetimes. In order to assess these alternatives, the Article reconsiders the reasons for taxing wealth transfers, arguing that the primary purpose of a wealth transfer tax is not to raise revenue or enhance progressivity, but to regulate intergenerational transfers of wealth in order to reduce unearned concentrations of wealth and power and promote fair equality of opportunity. On this basis, it argues that a lifetime accessions tax is an attractive alternative to the current tax.

Suggested Citation

Duff, David G., Alternatives to the Gift and Estate Tax (April 26, 2016). Boston College Law Review, 57 B.C.L. Rev. 893 (2016). Available at SSRN:

David G. Duff (Contact Author)

Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1
1-604-827-3586 (Phone)
604-833-8108 (Fax)


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