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Wealth transfer taxation. Philosophical and economic debates and lessons from history

Abstract : For economists, it is not easy to grapple with a phenomenon as complex as inheritance or wealth transfers, which is inherently multidisciplinary. They are thus puzzled by the specific decline of wealth transfer taxation, which has become highly unpopular today, but also by the current lack of interest in the very issue of inheritance, which was formerly the subject of passionate debate among the most illustrious thinkers and social reformers. These changes appear all the more surprising in the light of the massive and worrying process of property accumulation (patrimonialization) that our societies have been experiencing since 1980, a process that is detrimental not only to economic growth, but also to equality of opportunity and to balanced intergenerational relationships. To explain such a paradox, I have extracted three polar “philosophies of inheritance” from the tangle of the arguments either in favor of or opposed to wealth transfer taxation, showing that only coalitions between holders of these different philosophies had proved historically effective at creating sustainable policies and attitudes towards inheritance and its taxation. The dominant coalition since 1980, between rich neoliberals and “familialists,” explains the current rejection of the inheritance tax. I consider ways and means for wealth transfer tax reforms that would oust this coalition it in favor of a broader, more balanced one that would also simultaneously address the negative effects of the current wealth situation.
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Submitted on : Monday, October 1, 2018 - 9:37:10 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 29, 2022 - 10:13:21 AM

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  • HAL Id : halshs-01885430, version 1

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André Masson. Wealth transfer taxation. Philosophical and economic debates and lessons from history. Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences Po, 2018, pp.123-174. ⟨halshs-01885430⟩

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