Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Taxing Personhood: Estate Taxes and the Compelled Commodification of Identity

53 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2006  

Ray D. Madoff

Boston College - Law School


In this Article, Professor Madoff explores the ways in which the blunt tools of the wealth tax, and in particular the estate tax, uses a one-size-fits-all system to impose a tax on all property interests owned at the time of one's death. Professor Madoff illustrates the ways in which these blunt tools can produce problematic results by examining their application to the right of publicity, a newly recognized property interest. Professor Madoff suggests that the imposition of the estate tax can force the commodification of an individual's identity, regardless of one's desire to refrain from marketing their identity, and explores ways in which the estate tax could begin to employ a more nuanced approach to wealth.

Keywords: marketable commodity, commodification of individual identity, income tax, marketing celebrity, estate tax, property theory, the right of publicity, wealth tax, property interests

Suggested Citation

Madoff, Ray D., Taxing Personhood: Estate Taxes and the Compelled Commodification of Identity. Virginia Tax Review, Vol. 17, pp. 759-810, 1998; Boston College Law School Research Paper No. 1998-06. Available at SSRN:

Ray D. Madoff (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States
617-552-0926 (Phone)
617-552-2615 (Fax)

Paper statistics

Abstract Views