Why do the public oppose inheritance taxes?

Prabhakar, Rajiv (2015). Why do the public oppose inheritance taxes? In: Gaisbauer, Helmut P.; Schweiger, Gottfried and Sedmak, Clemens eds. Philosophical Explorations of Justice and Taxation: National and Global Issues. Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice (40). Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 151–166.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-13458-1_10


Common wisdom supposes that inheritance taxes are very unpopular among the public. This public opposition seems puzzling as these taxes typically apply to a minority of estates. Usual explanations for this are that people are poorly informed about the extent of these taxes or a lack of a compelling moral case for such taxes. This chapter argues that current approaches do not go far enough. It suggests public attitudes to inheritance taxes are better understood as a specific case of discontent with wider taxes. Addressing this means tackling a disconnection the public feel over the taxes they pay as well as exploring public reactions to different combinations of taxes. Greater public support for inheritance taxes is important for building public compliance with these taxes as well as improving the chances for policy reform.

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