New Econoblog, on estate taxes

Here is the link, I am debating Max Sawicky. My first installment reads as follows:

Whether or to what extent we should have an estate tax will depend on other fiscal choices we make.  But the case for an estate tax is not as simple as Max thinks:

1. It is not clear if the estate tax raises much if any revenue.  The very rich engage in tax avoidance strategies.  The apparent revenue raised is often offset by a lower intake from income and capital gains taxes.  Furthermore it has been estimated that the costs of implementing tax avoidance strategies are roughly equal to the (gross) revenue raised.

2. The estate tax does not do much for equality.  In fact it increases consumption inequality — presumably the relevant measure — by encouraging the rich to spend more money before they die.  Joseph Stiglitz and Alan Blinder have raised this concern.

3. Estate taxes add yet another layer of taxation on savings and investment.  Imagine that you must first pay taxes on earned income.  You then pay taxes on the income derived from savings and investment.  You then face estate taxes when the funds or resources are passed down to the next generation.  Savings and investment, of course, are a well spring of economic growth.  It is no wonder that the fairness and efficiency of the estate tax has come under such question.

In the early 1990s, Henry Aaron and Alicia Munnell — two liberal economists — wrote: "In short, the estate and gift taxes in the United States have failed to achieve their intended purposes.  They raise little revenue.  They impose large excess burdens.  They are unfair."

Addendum: Here is the permanent link.


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