NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Economic and Fiscal Effects of Eliminating the Federal Death Tax

September 25, 2014

The federal estate tax is a tax on a person's lifetime accumulated property. Despite the fact it raises a small amount of revenue for the government, it imposes great costs on the American economy in terms of lost jobs and reduced growth rates, according to the Heritage Foundation.

  • In 2014, the death tax applies a 40 percent tax to all accumulated wealth above $5.34 million.
  • Eliminating the death tax could boost U.S. economic growth by more than $46 billion over the next 10 years.
  • Furthermore, it could create 18,000 private sector jobs annually.
  • Moreover, the tax will only account for about 0.5 percent of federal revenue between 2015 and 2024.

The death tax has its biggest effect on family-owned businesses. The reason is that many owners of family businesses have their assets tied up in the business, rather than having them liquid. When an owner dies, their heirs are forced to liquidate 40 percent of the business' value to pay the tax, often spelling out closure of the business altogether.

Proponents of the tax argue that it targets that ultra-wealthy which helps reduce income inequality. However, according to one recent study by the Joint Economic Committee, only 2 percent of income inequality can be explained by inherited wealth.

Furthermore, the death tax encourages people to consume more and invest less because there is less of an incentive to save if the government can end up confiscating 40 percent of assets. Investments and savings create a vibrant and dynamic economy.

Considering the effect that the tax has on the overall U.S. economy and marginal revenues it provides for the government, it should be abolished altogether.

Source: The Heritage Foundation, "The Economic and Fiscal Effects of Eliminating the Federal Death Tax," September 23, 2014.


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