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Distortion Costs of Taxing Wealth Accumulation: Income Versus Estate Taxes

  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin
  • Donald Marples
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    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.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8261.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8261.

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    Date of creation: Apr 2001
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8261
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    1. Auten, Gerald & Joulfaian, David, 2001. "Bequest taxes and capital gains realizations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 213-229, August.
    2. Bruce, Donald, 2000. "Effects of the United States tax system on transitions into self-employment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(5), pages 545-574, September.
    3. James Poterba, 1997. "The Estate Tax and After-Tax Investment Returns," NBER Working Papers 6337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. William G. Gale & Joel B. Slemrod, 2001. "Rethinking the Estate and Gift Tax: Overview," NBER Working Papers 8205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. O. Attanasio & H. W. Hoynes, . "Differential mortality and wealth accumulation," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1079-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    6. Feldstein, Martin S, 1978. "The Welfare Cost of Capital Income Taxation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages S29-51, April.
    7. Joel Slemrod & Wojciech Kopczuk, 2000. "The Impact of the Estate Tax on the Wealth Accumulation and Avoidance Behavior of Donors," NBER Working Papers 7960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2002. "The Trick is to Live: Is the Estate Tax Social Security for the Rich?," NBER Working Papers 9188, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Michael D. Hurd & James P. Smith, 1999. "Anticipated and Actual Bequests," NBER Working Papers 7380, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Richard Blundell & James Powell, 2001. "Endogeneity in nonparametric and semiparametric regression models," CeMMAP working papers CWP09/01, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    11. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
    12. Buchinsky, Moshe, 1995. "Estimating the asymptotic covariance matrix for quantile regression models a Monte Carlo study," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 303-338, August.
    13. 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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