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Estate Taxes, Life Insurance, and Small Business

Author

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  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin
  • John W. Phillips
  • Harvey S. Rosen

Abstract

One criticism of the estate tax is that it prevents the owners of family businesses from passing their enterprises to their children. The problem is that it may be difficult to pay estate taxes without liquidating the business. A natural question is why individuals with such concerns do not purchase enough life insurance to meet their estate tax liabilities. This paper examines whether and how people use life insurance to deal with the estate tax. We find that, other things being the same, business owners purchase more life insurance than other individuals. However, on the margin, their insurance purchases are less responsive to estate tax considerations and they are less likely to have the wherewithal to meet estate tax liabilities out of liquid assets plus insurance.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin & John W. Phillips & Harvey S. Rosen, 1999. "Estate Taxes, Life Insurance, and Small Business," NBER Working Papers 7360, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7360
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1985. "Life Insurance of the Elderly: Adequacy and Determinants," NBER Working Papers 1737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1991. "How Strong Are Bequest Motives? Evidence Based on Estimates of the Demand for Life Insurance and Annuities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 899-927, October.
    3. Robert W. Fairlie & Bruce D. Meyer, 1996. "Ethnic and Racial Self-Employment Differences and Possible Explanations," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(4), pages 757-793.
    4. Jeffrey Brown, 2001. "Are the Elderly Really Over-Annuitized? New Evidence on Life Insurance and Bequests," NBER Chapters,in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 91-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1987. "Does the Estate Tax Raise Revenue?," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 1, pages 113-138 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. James P. Smith, 2004. "Wealth Inequality Among Older Americans," Labor and Demography 0403003, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. James Poterba, 1997. "The Estate Tax and After-Tax Investment Returns," NBER Working Papers 6337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. F. Thomas Juster & Richard Suzman, 1995. " An Overview of the Health and Retirement Study," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30, pages s7-s56.
    9. James M. Poterba & Andrew Samwick, 2001. "Household Portfolio Allocation over the Life Cycle," NBER Chapters,in: Aging Issues in the United States and Japan, pages 65-104 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Harold M. Somers, 1958. "Estate Taxes And Business Mergers: The Effects Of Estate Taxes On Business Structure And Practices In The United States," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 13(2), pages 201-210, May.
    11. James Poterba, 1998. "Estate and Gift Taxes and Incentives for Inter Vivos Giving in the United States," NBER Working Papers 6842, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2012. "Taxation of Intergenerational Transfers and Wealth," NBER Working Papers 18584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Jeffrey Brown, 2001. "Are the Elderly Really Over-Annuitized? New Evidence on Life Insurance and Bequests," NBER Chapters,in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 91-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Joulfaian, David, 2014. "To own or not to own your life insurance policy?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 120-127.
    4. 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.
    5. Florian Dorn & Björn Kauder & Manuela Krause & Niklas Potrafke, 2017. "Die Erbschaftsteuer in Deutschland – Reformbedarf und Reformkompromiss," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 70(01), pages 33-40, January.
    6. Jeffrey R. Brown & Austan Goolsbee, 2002. "Does the Internet Make Markets More Competitive? Evidence from the Life Insurance Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 481-507, June.
    7. Shi, Xiaojun & Wang, Hung-Jen & Xing, Chunbing, 2015. "The role of life insurance in an emerging economy: Human capital protection, assets allocation and social interaction," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 19-33.
    8. Brunetti, Michael J., 2006. "The estate tax and the demise of the family business," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(10-11), pages 1975-1993, November.
    9. William G. Gale & Joel B. Slemrod, 2001. "Rethinking the Estate and Gift Tax: Overview," NBER Working Papers 8205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies

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