Why Death Taxes Should Be Abolished

Policy Backgrounders | Taxes

No. 150
Wednesday, August 18, 1999
by Bruce Bartlett


  1. Douglas P. Stinson, Testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means, hearing on reducing the tax burden, January 28, 1998.
  2. Travis Research Associates, Federal Estate Tax Impact Survey (Costa Mesa, CA: Center for the Study of Taxation, June 1995).
  3. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, David Joulfaian, and Harvey Rosen, "Sticking It Out: Entrepreneurial Survival and Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Political Economy, vol. 102, no. 1 (February 1994), pp. 53-75. See also Patrick Fleenor and J.D. Foster, An Analysis of the Disincentive Effects of the Estate Tax on Entrepreneurship (Washington, DC: Tax Foundation, 1994).
  4. Chelcie C. Bosland, "Has Estate Taxation Induced Recent Mergers?" National Tax Journal, vol. 16, no. 2 (June 1963), pp. 159-168; Harold M. Somers, "Estate Taxes and Business Mergers: The Effects of Estate Taxes on Business Structure and Practices in the United States," Journal of Finance, vol. 13, no. 2 (May 1958), pp. 201-210.
  5. Skylar Thompson, Testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means, hearing on reducing the tax burden, June 16, 1999.
  6. National Federation of Independent Business, "Death (estate) tax reform," available at http://www.nfibonline.com/politics/issue-
  7. Even the popular press now discusses exotic estate planning techniques with regularity. See Louise Nameth, "Who Will Get Your Wealth: Your Kids or the IRS?" Fortune (March 17, 1997), p. 195-96; Christopher Drew and David Kay Johnston, "For Wealthy Americans, Death Is More certain Than Taxes," New York Times (December 22, 1996); Lynn Asinof, "Estate-Planning Techniques for the Rich," Wall Street Journal (January 11, 1995).
  8. George Cooper, A Voluntary Tax? New Perspectives on Sophisticated Estate Tax Avoidance (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1979), p. 4.
  9. Henry J. Aaron and Alicia H. Munnell, "Reassessing the Role for Wealth Transfer Taxes," National Tax Journal, vol. 45, no. 2 (June 1992), p. 138.
  10. Kenneth Chapman, Govind Hariharan and Lawrence Southwick, Jr., "Estate Taxes and Asset Accumulation," Family Business Review, vol. 9, no. 3 (Fall 1996), pp. 253-268.
  11. Christopher E. Erblich, "To Bury Federal Transfer Taxes Without Further Adieu," Seton Hall Law Review, vol. 24, no. 4 (1994), pp. 1953-56.
  12. B. Douglas Bernheim, "Does the Estate Tax Raise Revenue?" in Lawrence H. Summers, ed., Tax Policy and the Economy, vol. 1 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987), pp. 113-138. It should also be noted that lawyers' and accountants' fees for estate planning can, in many cases, be deducted from one's income taxes, which is another way in which the estate tax reduces income tax revenues.
  13. Edward J. McCaffery, "The Uneasy Case for Wealth Transfer Taxation," Yale Law Journal, vol. 104, no. 2 (November 1994), pp. 319-321.
  14. Nigel Tomes, "The Family, Inheritance, and the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, vol. 89, no. 5 (October 1981), pp. 928-958; Jere R. Behrman, Robert A. Pollak, and Paul Taubman, "Parental Preferences and Provision for Progeny," Journal of Political Economy, vol. 90, no. 1 (February 1982), pp. 52-73.
  15. See B. Douglas Bernheim, Andrei Shleifer, and Lawrence H. Summers, "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Political Economy, vol. 93, no. 6 (December 1985), pp. 1045-76; Thad W. Mirer, "The Wealth-Age Relation among the Aged," American Economic Review, vol. 69, no. 3 (June 1979), pp. 435-443; Paul L. Menchik and Martin David, "Income Distribution, Lifetime Savings, and Bequests," American Economic Review, vol. 73, no. 4 (September 1983), pp. 672-690.
  16. Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Lawrence H. Summers, "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Formation," Journal of Political Economy, vol. 89, no. 4 (August 1981), pp. 706-732. See also William G. Gale and John Karl Scholz, "Intergenerational Transfers and the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 8, no. 4 (Fall 1994), pp. 145-160; Thomas A. Barthold and Takatoshi Ito, "Bequest Taxes and Accumulation of Household Wealth: U.S.-Japan Comparison," in Takatoshi Ito and Anne O. Krueger, eds., The Political Economy of Tax Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 235-290. Summers, a former Harvard economist, is now Secretary of the Treasury.
  17. Laurence Kotlikoff, "Intergenerational Transfers and Savings," Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 2, no. 2 (Spring 1988), pp. 41-58; B. Douglas Bernheim, "How Strong Are Bequest Motives? Evidence Based on Estimates of the Demand for Life Insurance and Annuities," Journal of Political Economy, vol. 99, no. 5 (October 1991), pp. 899-927.
  18. Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (New York: Modern Library, 1937), p. 814.
  19. David Ricardo, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1951), p. 153.
  20. C.F. Bastable, Public Finance, 3rd ed. (London: Macmillan, 1903), p. 591.
  21. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto (New York: International Publishers, 1948), p. 30.
  22. D.W. Haslett, "Is Inheritance Justified?" Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol. 15, no. 2 (Spring 1986), pp. 122-155; Michael B. Levy, "Liberal Equality and Inherited Wealth," Political Theory, vol. 11, no. 4 (November 1983), pp. 545-564; Kenneth Greene, "Inheritance Unjustified?" Journal of Law & Economics, vol. 16, no. 2 (October 1973), pp. 417-419; Mark Ascher, "Curtailing Inherited Wealth," Michigan Law Review, vol. 89, no. 1 (October 1990), pp. 69-151.
  23. Joseph E. Stiglitz, "Notes on Estate Taxes, Redistribution, and the Concept of Balanced Growth Path Incidence," Journal of Political Economy, vol. 86, no. 2, pt. 2 (April 1978), pp. S137-S150.
  24. McCaffery, op. cit., pp. 322-324; Joel C. Dobris, "A Brief for the Abolition of All Transfer Taxes," Syracuse Law Review, vol. 35, no. 4 (1984), pp. 1219-1220; Alan S. Blinder, "Inequality and Mobility in the Distribution of Wealth," Kyklos, vol. 29, no. 4 (1976), pp. 618-19.
  25. Edward N. Wolff, Top Heavy, updated ed. (New York: The New Press, 1996).
  26. Rudolph C. Blitz and John J. Siegfried, "How Did the Wealthiest Americans Get So Rich?" Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, vol. 32, no. 1 (Spring 1992), p. 9.
  27. Stanley Lebergott, The American Economy: Income, Wealth, and Want (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), pp. 161-175.
  28. Aaron and Munnell, "Reassessing the Role for Wealth Transfer Taxes," p. 138.
  29. Gerald P. Moran, "Estate and Gift Taxation: The Case for Repeal," Tax Notes, vol. 13 (August 17, 1981), p. 341.

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