Transfer Taxes and Inequality. Jappelli, T., Padula, M., & Pica, G. Technical Report 21, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies, December, 2011.
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This study surveys the existing debate on the taxation of the intergenerational transfers. Understanding the effect of transfer taxes on the intergenerational transmission of wealth requires answering the difficult question of what is the effect of taxes on bequest. On the one hand, the economic literature is far from sharing a unanimous view on the exact nature of the motive to leave bequests. On the other, data problems, and in particular lack of data on donors, makes it hard to provide conclusive evidence on the matter. To put the debate in context, we review the legislation on the taxation of intergenerational transfers in several OECD countries. Institutional arrangements on estate taxations vary widely between countries. Despite such heterogeneity, the revenues from taxing intergen- erational transfers are generally low, and decreasing from 1% in the mid-sixties to 0.4% after 1980. We take this trend as broadly indicative that little redistribution takes place through taxation of intergenerational transfers. The available evidence and the related theoretical issues make it hard to establish a causal link between the increase in wealth and income inequality and the vanishing transfer tax.

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