Vol. LVII No. 3
Symposium Issue

The Centennial of the Estate and Gift Tax:  Perspectives and Recommendations

The approaching 100th anniversary of the estate tax is an opportune time to reexamine its role in our fiscal system. This is particularly true in light of the political maelstrom that has surrounded the estate and gift tax in the past 20 years. Throughout its history, the estate and gift tax has served several purposes. […]

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“Death Tax” Politics

Abstract: In his Keynote Address “Death Tax” Politics at the October 2, 2015 Boston College Law School and American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Symposium, The Centennial of the Estate and Gift Tax: Perspectives and Recommendations, Michael Graetz describes the fight over the repeal of the estate tax and its current diminished state. Graetz […]

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Should We Tax the Gratuitous Transfer of Wealth? An Introduction

Abstract: The estate tax was enacted because of concerns about the impact of large concentrations of dynastic wealth on the political process. As discussed in this commentary, which reviews the Symposium articles by Paul Caron, David Joulfaian, and Jennifer Bird-Pollan, recent research by political scientists supports the legitimacy of these concerns. In addition, a significant […]

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The One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Federal Estate Tax: It’s Time to Renew Our Vows

Abstract: The approaching one-hundredth anniversary of the federal estate tax is an opportune time to revisit its historical origins, its role in our government and society through the years, and its current and future place in our fiscal firmament. This Article argues that the reasons behind the enactment of the estate tax in 1916—to raise […]

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What Do We Know About the Behavioral Effects of the Estate Tax?

Abstract: Few estates are subject to the estate tax, which accounts for only a small portion of federal revenues. Even so, those whose estates may be subject to the tax tend to have access to high-quality advice and to engage in long-term tax planning. Because of this, the presence of the estate tax has a […]

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Why Tax Wealth Transfers?: A Philosophical Analysis

Abstract: 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” […]

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Considering Alternatives: Are There Methods Other Than the Estate and Gift Tax That Could Better Address Problems Associated with Wealth Concentration?

Abstract: This Commentary analyzes three articles generated from the Symposium “The Centennial of the Estate and Gift Tax: Perspectives and Recommendations,” held on October 2, 2015 at Boston College Law School. This Commentary explores the underlying purpose of the estate and gift tax: eliminating wealth inequality. It then considers the three articles’ proposed alternative tax […]

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Alternatives to the Gift and Estate Tax

Abstract: Following the near-death experience of the federal gift and estate tax in 2010, the hundredth anniversary of the tax represents an ideal moment to reflect on the role of this tax and whether an alternative approach might be more desirable and sustainable. This Article examines four prominent alternatives to the current tax: an annual […]

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Divide and Conquer: Using an Accessions Tax to Combat Dynastic Wealth Transfers

Abstract: The current estate tax raises little revenue, yet is ill designed to further the social goals used to justify it. This Article takes one frequently mentioned goal—minimizing dynastic wealth transfers—and explores what insights focusing on that objective yields for the design of the transfer tax system. It starts from the premise that what renders […]

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A Wealth Tax: Taxing the Estates of the Living

Abstract: It has now been one hundred years since the passage of the first estate tax, and since that time the size and complexity of the federal tax system has only continued to grow. In the face of that complexity it is worthwhile for the United States to begin considering alternatives. Do we continue with […]

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Valuation, Values, Norms: Proposals for Estate and Gift Tax Reform

Abstract: In their contributions to this Symposium, Professor Joseph Dodge, Professor Wendy Gerzog, and Professor Kerry Ryan offer concrete proposals for improving the existing estate and gift tax system. Professor Dodge and Professor Gerzog are especially interested in accuracy in valuation, and advance specific proposals with respect to split-interest transfers and family limited partnerships. Professor […]

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Three Whacks at Wealth Transfer Tax Reform: Retained-Interest Transfers, Generation-Skipping Trusts, and FLP Valuation Discounts

Abstract: This Article offers three sets of proposals to reform the existing federal wealth transfer tax system, the common theme being the link between the timing of the taxable transfer and valuation. Under the first set of proposals, transfers with retained interests would be taxed at the first to occur of the transferor’s death or […]

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Toward a Reality-Based Estate Tax

Abstract: Currently, the estate tax does not accurately value the property and transactions that it is meant to cover. Additionally, the marital and charitable deductions do not reflect actual associated transfers, instead skewing their benefits away from their purported beneficiaries. This Article proposes reforming the estate tax by eliminating these sources of unreality and distortion, […]

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Marital Sharing of Transfer Tax Exemptions

Abstract: This Article analyzes portability and its antecedents in order to distill a positive account of marital sharing of transfer tax exemption amounts. Prior to 2010, the estate and gift tax exemption equivalent was a non-transferable, separate tax attribute of each spouse. A spouse could only access his or her spouse’s effective exemption by shifting […]

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