Why Tax Wealth Transfers?: A Philosophical Analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The one-hundredth anniversary of the estate tax provides an ideal moment to reflect on the role of wealth transfer taxation in the larger scheme of the U.S. tax system. Wealth and income inequality are at historically high levels, and the responses to these issues are often reduced to a simplistic political dichotomy of “right” versus “left.” The multitude of views of the American people cannot be reduced to such simple generalities without losing important nuances. This Article identifies three general categories of political philosophical viewpoints that are commonly endorsed by both politicians and everyday Americans, and then examines the current estate tax from within the perspective of those positions. The Article concludes that maintaining a wealth transfer tax system, perhaps organized as a tax assessed on the heirs, best matches the political views of twenty-first century Americans.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)859-881
JournalBoston College Law Review
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


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