Re: The new death penalty

Dave Long (
Mon, 02 Aug 1999 22:20:00 -0700

One theory of taxation says that you should attempt to tax things
which don't show much elasticity; otherwise the tax is "inefficient"
in the sense that the value lost to the taxed (including lowered
production due to the tax) is greater than the revenues gained.

According to that theory*, then, estate taxes should be run to the
hilt, because life is invariably fatal. (extropians? anyone?

Unfortunately, instead of affecting the production of (im)mortality,
levying taxes on estates simply affects the production of estate
planning (and, in the longer term, production of lawyers), so there
probably is a good deal of elastic inefficiency to contend with.

If there are any dynasts on FoRK, it looks like there's a unified
tax credit such that you can give or bequeath up to $650K before
hitting gift or estate taxes, and that amount is scheduled to
increase to $1M (potentially per spouse) by 2006. Not exactly chump
change; certainly enough to give a kid or two a modest competence.

If you're still worried about your estate, it may be worth retaining
counsel. Can anyone here confirm the rumor that Hunt (the Texan
billionaire) managed to arrange his affairs such that he kicked the
bucket owning only his pickup truck? If you take this route, be
sure your offspring are advised against attempting to corner the
silver market with their inheritance.


* Taxing authorities didn't wait for the invention of the theory:
transfer of a fief was one of the feudal events for which payment
could be requested (relief). The Code of Hammurabi spends a good
deal of text on dealing with the property of the dead.

Reading the Magna Charta shows that in the 13th century, taxation
was governed by much the same rules as those we follow when
baby-showering or circulating cards around the office:

12. No scutage or aid shall be imposed in our Kingdom, unless by
the General Council of our Kingdom; except for ransoming our person,
making our eldest son a knight and once for marrying our eldest
daughter; and for these there shall be paid no more than a reasonable
aid. In like manner it shall be concerning the aids of the City of London.

15. We will not for the future grant to any one that he may take aid
of his own free tenants, unless to ransom his body, and to make his
eldest son a knight, and once to marry his eldest daughter; and for
this there shall be only paid a reasonable aid.