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Estate and Gift Tax Incentives and Inter Vivos Giving

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  • Joulfaian, David
  • McGarry, Kathleen

Abstract

The estate tax has received a great deal of attention from policy makers and the public in recent years. Yet we know little about its effect on the transfer of wealth. In this paper we explore the effect of the tax on inter vivos giving. In particular, we look at the degree to which wealthy individuals exploit the potential for tax–free transfers as a means of spending–down their estates, and examine the responsiveness of inter vivos transfers over time to changes in the tax law. To address these questions we employ two data sets, each with important strengths and weaknesses. Using panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) we find that many of the wealthy fail to take advantage of the gift tax annual exemption to make tax–free transfers in any given year. Even those who do make a transfer in one year, often do not repeat the transfer annually and transfer far less than the tax law would allow. We then use data from linked gift and estate tax returns to examine giving over a much longer period. We find in the aggregate that there are sizable shifts in the timing of giving in response to tax changes, but again, the wealthy appear to transfer very little during their lifetimes. Overall, we conclude that while taxes are an important consideration in transfer behavior of the rich, their behavior is not universally consistent with a tax minimization strategy.

Suggested Citation

  • Joulfaian, David & McGarry, Kathleen, 2004. "Estate and Gift Tax Incentives and Inter Vivos Giving," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 429-444, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:57:y:2004:i:2:p:429-44
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Niimi, Yoko, 2016. "To Avoid or Not to Avoid Inheritance Taxes? That Is the Question for Parents: Empirical Evidence from Japan," AGI Working Paper Series 2016-13, Asian Growth Research Institute.
    2. James R. Hines Jr., 2013. "The Redistributive Potential of Transfer Taxation," Public Finance Review, , vol. 41(6), pages 885-903, November.
    3. HAMAAKI Junya & HORI Masahiro & MURATA Keiko, 2016. "The Intra-Family Division of Bequests and Bequest Motives: Empirical Evidence from a Survey on Japanese Households," ESRI Discussion paper series 333, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    4. Marta Melguizo Garde, 2007. "La motivación de las transmisiones lucrativas entre generaciones de una familia: modelos teóricos y evidencia empírica," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 181(2), pages 81-118, June.
    5. Brunner Johann K., 2014. "Die Erbschaftsteuer – Bestandteil eines optimalen Steuersystems?," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, De Gruyter, vol. 15(3), pages 199-218, October.
    6. James R Hines Jr & Niklas Potrafke & Marina Riem & Christoph Schinke, 2015. "Inter vivos transfers of ownership in family firms," Working Papers 1523, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
    7. Glogowsky, Ulrich, 2016. "Behavioral Responses to Wealth Transfer Taxation: Bunching Evidence from Germany," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145922, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    8. James R. Hines Jr., 2013. "How Important Are Perpetual Tax Savings?," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 101-124.
    9. repec:kap:itaxpf:v:24:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10797-016-9425-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Joulfaian, David, 2014. "To own or not to own your life insurance policy?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 120-127.
    11. Sommer, Eric, 2017. "Wealth Transfers and Tax Planning: Evidence for the German Bequest Tax," IZA Discussion Papers 11120, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Nordblom, Katarina & Ohlsson, Henry, 2006. "Tax avoidance and intra-family transfers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1669-1680, September.
    13. Ohlsson, Henry, 2011. "The legacy of the Swedish gift and inheritance tax, 1884–2004," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(03), pages 539-569, December.
    14. Jon Bakija & Joel Slemrod, 2004. "Do the Rich Flee from High State Taxes? Evidence from Federal Estate Tax Returns," Department of Economics Working Papers 2004-12, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    15. Stewart, Charles Jr., 2006. "Gross national accumulation," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 105-113.
    16. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2010. "Economics of estate taxation: a brief review of theory and evidence," NBER Working Papers 15741, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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