Saturday, July 1, 2023

Article: Is the Inheritance and Gift Tax a Reasonable Alternative for the Net Wealth Tax?: A Legal and Economic Analysis Across OECD Countries

Anna-Maria Anderwald (University of Graz) and Rainer Niemann (University of Graz) recently published an Article, Is the Inheritance and Gift Tax a Reasonable Alternative for the Net Wealth Tax?: A Legal and Economic Analysis Across OECD Countries, Intertax Volume 50, Issue 6 & 7, 2023. Provided below is an abstract:

Net wealth taxes are one of the most controversial topics in taxation. Strained government finances due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the increasing inequality in the distribution of wealth are fuelling this debate (See, for example, Wealth Tax Commission, A Wealth Tax for the UK, Final Report (2020) that refers to the need to raise substantial revenue after the pandemic). While some countries (Especially France: The net wealth tax – referred to as the ISF (impôt sur la fortune) – was abolished in 2017. See also the overview in Rainer Niemann & Caren Sureth- Sloane, Investment timing effects of wealth taxes under uncertainty and irreversibility, Journal of Business Economics 89, 385 (2019), 405) have abolished net wealth taxes, their (re)introduction is being considered in others (For example, Austria, Germany, and the United States (proposed by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders), to specify just a few of them). Unfortunately, legal and economic arguments are rarely brought together in the public discussion, and the academic tax community has remained relatively quiet. Given the politically delicate nature of net wealth taxes, an interdisciplinary discussion seems necessary.

This policy note focuses on the policy discussion on net wealth taxes from both economic and legal perspectives. It begins by identifying the characteristics of a net wealth tax compared to related taxes, such as property taxes and inheritance and gift taxes (Chapter I.). This is followed by an overview of the status quo of net wealth taxes and wealth-related taxes in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries (Chapter II.). Building on this, the article deals with the main arguments proposed in the literature in favour of and against the (re)introduction of net wealth taxes (Chapter III.). Since a net wealth tax has far-reaching effects on economic decision-making and on taxpayer compliance, a purely legal analysis is necessarily incomplete and requires an economic counterpart. Likewise, economically motivated tax reform proposals require an analysis of their legitimacy. A comprehensive discussion therefore requires a simultaneous legal and economic analysis.

Since net wealth taxes are predominantly justified with distributional reasons, this note also discusses whether an inheritance and gift tax represents a reasonable alternative to a net wealth tax (Chapter IV.). After all, an inheritance and gift tax could also counteract the inequality of wealth. The objective of this article is to provide an interdisciplinary basis for the tax policy debate on wealth-related taxes.

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