Another report into inheritance tax and another observation that it doesn’t actually do what it says upon the tin:
People with estates worth many millions are able to avoid the brunt of inheritance tax through complex schemes, including moving the cash offshore or investing in agricultural land and small business shares. Those avenues are closed to “moderately well–off” people whose only assets are their home and pension, Mr Johnson said.
It’s just about possible to see that the great plutocratic fortunes should be broken up every generation or so to prevent the fossilisation of society: if that’s something you tend to worry about which we don’t very much. But to have a taxation system which attempts to do this and then doesn’t is obviously entirely dysfunctional.
Our current system manages to tax the small capital of the bourgeois while leaving those plutocrats untouched. We therefore really rather do want to change that taxation system.
This is not, I hasten to add, the official ASI line here, rather being a personal musing. But I take it as a given that we don’t actually want to tax the petit and haute bourgeois accumulations of capital. Far from it, we’d much prefer to see modest estates cascade down the generations. For reasonable amounts do provide freedom and liberty. In that currently fashionable phrase, enough to do anything but not enough to do nothing. It’s also, even if you do worry about the plutocrats, not how much money is left that is the problem but how much money is received. Someone leaving a few billions to be spread among thousands is very different from a few hundreds of millions being left to just one.
So I would muse that we might want to move to a system something like the following. It is the receipt of an inheritance which is taxable, not the leaving of one. Further, there’s a substantial lifetime exemption from having to pay tax on receiving one or many. Several millions perhaps: that need to still do something amount.
Alternatively, of course, we could just move the entire taxation system over to being a consumption tax. In that manner we don’t actually mind who has what amount of capital nor where it came from. We just tax people when they spend with the capital or the income from it. and given that that’s the general trhust of the Mirrlees Report there’s good academic backing for the plan.