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Amory Blaine  Dec 9, 2017 • 1:03:40pm

It should be closer to 100 than 0. Heirs deserve none of it. The founding fathers understood this as a real societal problem.

Unshaken Defiance  Dec 9, 2017 • 4:16:38pm

re: #1 Amory Blaine

I just don’t see how one can generalize like that. Shall we demotivate earners from holding onto saving or assets to help their very own kids? I don’t see the benefit. Whether we think they deserve it or not is simply not our call. It is the decision of the owner of the money. What about middle class inheritance? Can we please not base the whole policy on the billionaire population?

How about we tax the money based on the earnings tax schedule of the recipient? Low income? 0%. Middle? 15% Upper middle ? 25% Etc.

The Ghost of a Flea  Dec 9, 2017 • 7:47:42pm

re: #1 Amory Blaine

The problem here is that the big money doesn’t use the estate as a means of wealth transfer. At minimum, there’s a revocable trust, but more often there’s corporation or foundation that acts as a vehicle for assets. And also…just plain offshoring the cash money wad. Or the various sinister-but-legal methods of using a charity as a warehouse.

Super-high estate would land much harder on smaller, less streamlined holdings. For example, most people’s major asset is their house, and the longer that house is held, the greater the appreciation (if not of the structure, then of the dirt under it). That end-of-life valuation creates for the inheritor a situation where they probably have to sell. Same problem applies to farmland: speculation drives up per-acre prices, so suddenly your land crosses the magic $10^6 number.

This has a long-term arc that’s a bit disturbing, too: immortal legal shells become all the more powerful when it comes to land retention. The result would be the opposite of redistributive, because the readiest buyer would be corporations (or trusts, etc) that have liquid capital *and* and a real estate management portfolio. I mean, if the government is acting as the transfer agent, and the premise is that they’re taking their cut to fund infrastructure and whatnot, they have no incentive to hang onto land…so who’s able to acquire it fast and at best value?

Unshaken Defiance  Dec 9, 2017 • 8:10:26pm

re: #3 The Ghost of a Flea

I got a little lost there. Who is your big money? Charity as a warehouse? I get the second paragraph. Third, yes a family might accrue holdings but at what scale is that a problem? My bad here not keeping up, quite.

KingKenrod  Dec 9, 2017 • 10:24:01pm

I go back and forth on the estate tax. Sure, it’s progressive, but just raising the income tax and capital gains rates could raise the same amount of money and be just as progressive. Tax corporations for excessive CEO compensation. You want to pay a CEO $50 million a year? Fine, that’s 100% tax. I hope they’re worth it!

It just seems unfair to tax someone on something that doesn’t generate any economic activity. It’s just a change of ownership without something in return. It’s just paperwork. If a poor person marries a rich person, do we tax the poor person because they’ve acquired half of their spouses wealth? It’s the same principle.

As others have pointed out, most large fortunes are unrealized capital gains - stocks and other securities, long held real estate, etc, occasionally family businesses. Those gains will be realized eventually, and even if they aren’t, so what? An unrealized gain is just numbers on a sheet. It’s not robbing the poor.

I’m concerned about income inequality like lots of people. I don’t know how much not having a estate tax contributes to that, though. There are many more valuable things we can do with public policy to address that.

The Ghost of a Flea  Dec 9, 2017 • 11:18:07pm

re: #4 Unshaken Defiance

By big money, I mean people with personal assets over 1 to 2 million dollars who get estate planners.

By charity as a warehouse, I mean the charities that are endowed, but then distribute minimal amounts to their cause while paying very high salaries to the board members at the top (who are family members) and paying at premium rates for goods and services. The Trump Foundation is an astounding rickety example of such.

Amory Blaine  Dec 10, 2017 • 12:57:30am

re: #2 Unshaken Defiance

Demotivating owners isn’t my concern. Creating entitled intergenerational oligarchs that control every facet of what’s supposed to be a democracy is.

William Lewis  Dec 10, 2017 • 5:08:02am

What I’ve believed for a long time:

100% of everything over $1,000,000 unless a family owned farm or business employing less than 25 total employees.

Even that much is really too high from my experience with heirs but I doubt anything less would ever pass.

Unshaken Defiance  Dec 10, 2017 • 11:03:13am

re: #7 Amory Blaine

Demotivating owners isn’t my concern. Creating entitled intergenerational oligarchs that control every facet of what’s supposed to be a democracy is.

Is that not a 1/10th %er phenomenon?

EPR-radar  Dec 14, 2017 • 12:54:45pm

re: #9 Unshaken Defiance

Is that not a 1/10th %er phenomenon?

It is, and that’s the whole problem. A tiny fraction of the country owns an absurdly large fraction of everything in it. That kind of wealth concentration is inevitable under capitalism, and the estate tax is one of the very few remaining public policies that we have that runs counter to this trend.

IMO the estate tax is the best tax we have. What better source of necessary revenue for government operations is there than massive unearned wealth? I know the gross receipts from the estate tax aren’t a large fraction of total revenue, but the principles matter for this kind of thing.

That said, the 100% rate proposed in the OP is ridiculous and a political dead duck, and is put forth by an idiot or a ratfucker trying to make progressives look bad.

The estate tax should be reformed so that estate planning etc. doesn’t let the large fortunes like the Waltons’ escape taxation while still being effectively inherited.

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