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The Trick Is to Live: Is the Estate Tax Social Security for the Rich?

  • Wojciech Kopczuk

Because estate tax liability usually depends on how long one lives, it implicitly provides annuity income. In the absence of annuity markets, lump-sum estate taxation may be used to achieve the first-best solution for individuals with a sufficiently strong bequest motive. Calculations of the annuity embedded in the U.S. estate tax show that people with $10 million of assets may be effectively receiving more than $100,000 a year financed at actuarially fair rates by their tax payments. According to my calibrations, the insurance effect reduces the marginal cost of funds (MCF) for the estate tax by as much as 30 percent, and the resulting MCF is within the range of estimates for the MCF for the income tax.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 111 (2003)
Issue (Month): 6 (December)
Pages: 1318-1341

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:111:y:2003:i:6:p:1318-1341
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  1. Abel, Andrew B, 1985. "Precautionary Saving and Accidental Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 777-91, September.
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  3. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1978. "Notes on Estate Taxes, Redistribution, and the Concept of Balanced Growth Path Incidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S137-50, April.
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  10. Tomas J. Philipson & Gary S. Becker, 1998. "Old-Age Longevity and Mortality-Contingent Claims," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 551-573, June.
  11. Davies, James B, 1981. "Uncertain Lifetime, Consumption, and Dissaving in Retirement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(3), pages 561-77, June.
  12. Charles Mullin & Tomas Philipson, 1997. "The Future of Old-Age Longevity: Competitive Pricing of Morality Contingent Claims," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 134, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
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  14. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba, 2000. "Mortality Risk, Inflation Risk, and Annuity Products," NBER Working Papers 7812, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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