Posthumous taxation is no different to Victorian style grave robbery, only done on a much larger scale. Morally- the inheritance tax should be abolished.
As well as the moralistic argument, there are also serious economic consequences of the tax- chiefly that it makes the tax system incredibly complicated. Abolishing the tax also means that those who are about to die will have the security of knowing their loved ones will have enough to live comfortably- a worry most parents have in common.
Some say this will lead to more inequality of opportunity. However this may not necessarily be the case. Take the case of the Walton family. Sam Walton grew up very poor. Through innovation and enterprise he founded Walmart and grew it to be the biggest retailer in the world, and when he died in 1992 Walmart was worth roughly $45 billion. His six children have no such experience in building a business. They are better at spending money than making it, and so their fortune will decline over the generations even without inheritance tax. This happens across the economy in Britain and the U.S. Of all the Fortune 500 companies that existed in 1955, only 11% remain. The average life expectancy for a Fortune 500 firm is now 15 years old. Family owned firms are usually sold by a less competent individual family member to another firm or individual, one with a better talent for enterprise.
So, without inheritance tax, the market still distributes resources to ensure maximum efficiency. The inequality of outcome cannot be attributed to lack of opportunity, but to inequality in entrepreneurship, something which builds capitalist society. Additionally some wealthy individuals like Bill Gates, choose to give away their wealth voluntary on their death, Gates choosing to leave his three children with just $10 million each of his vast fortune so they can “find their own way”. Taxing this fortune would probably result in less social good than would result from it going to the charities of Bill Gate’s choice, given how efficient government is.
Of course some hereditary inequality will occur, but this is the case when parents hand down good parenting skills, or good genetics or good education. Why should hereditary property be regulated by the government? Inheritance tax is unfair, predatory and economically harmful. The UK economy would benefit from Inheritance tax being scrapped.
Theo Cox Dodgson is winner of the Under-18 category of the ASI’s ‘Young Writer on Liberty’ competition.