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Optimal Taxation of Wealth Transfers When Bequests are Motivated by Joy of Giving

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  • Brunner Johann K.

    () (Johannes Kepler University of Linz)

  • Pech Susanne

    () (Johannes Kepler University of Linz)

Abstract

Inherited wealth creates a second distinguishing characteristic of individuals, in addition to earning abilities. We incorporate this fact into a model of optimal labor-income taxation, with bequests motivated by joy of giving. We find that taxes on bequests or on inheritances allow further redistribution if, in the parent generation, initial wealth and earning abilities are positively related. However, these taxes distort the bequest decision and thus, the overall effect on social welfare is ambiguous. On the other hand, a tax on all expenditures of a generation (a uniform tax on consumption plus bequests) has the same redistributive effect as an inheritance tax but does not distort the bequest decision.

Suggested Citation

  • Brunner Johann K. & Pech Susanne, 2012. "Optimal Taxation of Wealth Transfers When Bequests are Motivated by Joy of Giving," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-22, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:12:y:2012:i:1:n:8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Emmanuel Farhi & Iván Werning, 2010. "Progressive Estate Taxation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(2), pages 635-673.
    2. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 2001. "Direct versus Indirect Taxation: The Design of the Tax Structure Revisted," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 42(3), pages 781-799, August.
    3. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre, 2006. "Wealth transfer taxation: a survey of the theoretical literature," Handbook on the Economics of Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism, Elsevier.
    4. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 2003. "Capital income taxation when inherited wealth is not observable," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(11), pages 2475-2490, October.
    5. Boadway, Robin & Marchand, Maurice & Pestieau, Pierre, 2000. " Redistribution with Unobservable Bequests: A Case for Taxing Capital Income," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 102(2), pages 253-267, June.
    6. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    7. Johann K. Brunner & Susanne Pech, 2008. "Optimum taxation of inheritances," Economics working papers 2008-06, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    8. Wojciech Kopczuk & Joseph P. Lupton, 2007. "To Leave or Not to Leave: The Distribution of Bequest Motives," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(1), pages 207-235.
    9. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
    10. Johann K. Brunner & Susanne Pech, 2012. "Optimal Taxation of Bequests in a Model with Initial Wealth," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(4), pages 1368-1392, December.
    11. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2010. "Economics of estate taxation: a brief review of theory and evidence," NBER Working Papers 15741, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Atkinson, A. B. & Stiglitz, J. E., 1976. "The design of tax structure: Direct versus indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1-2), pages 55-75.
    13. Johann Brunner & Paul Eckerstorfer & Susanne Pech, 2013. "Optimal taxes on wealth and consumption in the presence of tax evasion," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 110(2), pages 107-124, October.
    14. Philippe Michel & Pierre Pestieau, 2004. "Fiscal Policy in an Overlapping Generations Model with Bequest-as-Consumption," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 6(3), pages 397-407, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robin Boadway & Katherine Cuff, 2015. "Tax treatment of bequests when donor benefits are discounted," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 22(4), pages 604-634, August.
    2. Johann Brunner & Susanne Pech, 2013. "Taxing bequests and consumption in the steady state," Economics working papers 2013-15, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    3. Brunner Johann K., 2014. "Die Erbschaftsteuer – Bestandteil eines optimalen Steuersystems?," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, De Gruyter, vol. 15(3), pages 199-218, October.
    4. Johann Brunner & Paul Eckerstorfer & Susanne Pech, 2013. "Optimal taxes on wealth and consumption in the presence of tax evasion," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 110(2), pages 107-124, October.
    5. Johann K. Brunner & Susanne Pech, 2012. "Optimal Taxation of Bequests in a Model with Initial Wealth," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(4), pages 1368-1392, December.
    6. Johann K. Brunner, 2012. "The Bequest Tax as Long-Term Care Insurance," CESifo Working Paper Series 3901, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies

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