NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Economics of estate taxation: a brief review of theory and evidence

Wojciech Kopczuk

NBER Working Paper No. 15741
Issued in February 2010
NBER Program(s):   AG   ME   PE

This paper provides a non-technical overview of the economic arguments related to the desirability of transfer taxation and a summary of empirical evidence surrounding these issues. Understanding optimal transfer taxation throughout the distribution requires understanding the nature of a bequest motive, a topic on which there is little consensus. However, I argue that progress still can be made on the question of desirability and optimal level of estate taxation at the top of the distribution, because interpersonal externalities implied by the presence of bequest motive are irrelevant from the welfare point of view when the focus is on the wealthy. I also examine the role of negative externalities from wealth concentration in providing justification for considering this type of taxation.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15741

Published: "Economics of estate taxation: A brief review of theory and evidence," Tax Law Review, 2009, 63(1), 139-157.

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