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Distortion Costs of Taxing Wealth Accumulation: Income Versus Estate Taxes

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  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin
  • Donald Marples

Abstract

Recently, attention has focused on the estate tax. To date, however, the debate over estate taxes has been nearly devoid of standard considerations of deadweight loss. We develop a framework for computing the deadweight loss of a revenue-neutral switch from an estate tax to a capital income tax, focusing on the potential lifetime behavioral responses in anticipation of paying the estate tax, while requiring relatively few parameters to estimate. We conclude that eliminating the estate tax and replacing the revenue with that from a capital income tax will likely enhance economic efficiency. Specifically, using our baseline parameter estimates we estimate that the mean decrease in deadweight loss is $0.018 per dollar of wealth. There is, however, considerable heterogeneity in the estimated impact. Importantly, our estimates are based on data that do not contain the 'super-rich' who are most highly affected by the estate tax.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin & Donald Marples, 2001. "Distortion Costs of Taxing Wealth Accumulation: Income Versus Estate Taxes," NBER Working Papers 8261, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8261
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Stantcheva, Stefanie, 2020. "Dynamic Taxation," CEPR Discussion Papers 14347, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Kopczuk, Wojciech & Saez, Emmanuel, 2004. "Top Wealth Shares in the United States, 1916-2000: Evidence From Estate Tax Returns," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 57(2), pages 445-487, June.
    3. Marius Brülhart & Jonathan Gruber & Matthias Krapf & Kurt Schmidheiny, 2019. "Behavioral Responses to Wealth Taxes: Evidence from Switzerland," CESifo Working Paper Series 7908, CESifo.
    4. Bellettini, Giorgio & Taddei, Filippo & Zanella, Giulio, 2017. "Intergenerational altruism and house prices: Evidence from bequest tax reforms in Italy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 1-12.
    5. Grossmann, Volker & Strulik, Holger, 2010. "Should continued family firms face lower taxes than other estates?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 87-101, February.
    6. Glogowsky, Ulrich, 2021. "Behavioral responses to inheritance and gift taxation: Evidence from Germany," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    7. Marius Brülhart & Jonathan Gruber & Matthias Krapf & Kurt Schmidheiny, 2016. "Taxing Wealth: Evidence from Switzerland," NBER Working Papers 22376, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2016. "U.S. capital gains and estate taxation: a status report and directions for a reform," CEPR Discussion Papers 11208, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Glogowsky, Ulrich, 2021. "Behavioral responses to inheritance and gift taxation: Evidence from Germany," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    10. Henriette Houben & Ralf Maiterth, 2011. "Erbschaftsteuer und Erbschaftsteuerreform in Deutschland: eine Bestandsaufnahme," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 80(4), pages 161-188.
    11. Goupille-Lebret, Jonathan & Infante, Jose, 2018. "Behavioral responses to inheritance tax: Evidence from notches in France," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 21-34.
    12. Bernheim, B. Douglas & Lemke, Robert J. & Scholz, John Karl, 2004. "Do estate and gift taxes affect the timing of private transfers?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2617-2634, December.
    13. Jappelli, T. & Padula, M. & Pica, G., 2011. "GINI DP 21: Transfer Taxes and Inequality," GINI Discussion Papers 21, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
    14. Jappelli, Tullio & Padula, Mario & Pica, Giovanni, 2010. "Estate Taxation and Intergenerational Transfers," CEPR Discussion Papers 7701, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. Glogowsky, Ulrich, 2016. "Behavioral Responses to Wealth Transfer Taxation: Bunching Evidence from Germany," VfS Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145922, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    16. Chirvi, Malte & Schneider, Cornelius, 2019. "Stated preferences for capital taxation - tax design, misinformation and the role of partisanship," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 242, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    17. Presbitero, Andrea F. & Sacchi, Agnese & Zazzaro, Alberto, 2014. "Property tax and fiscal discipline in OECD countries," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 124(3), pages 428-433.
    18. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2010. "Economics of estate taxation: a brief review of theory and evidence," NBER Working Papers 15741, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Chirvi, Malte & Schneider, Cornelius, 2020. "Preferences for wealth taxation: Design, framing and the role of partisanship," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 260, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.

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    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue

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