Friday, February 20, 2009

Without the Estate Tax would we be more peaceful or would we be French?

The history of the estate tax has historical ties to the nation's history of war according to this report to Congress dated April 9, 2003. A History of the Federal Estate, Gift, and Generation-Skipping Taxes

Federal taxes for most its history were imposed mostly to finance wars or the threat of war. The first Federal tax on such transfers was imposed from 1797 - 1802 as a stamp tax on inventories of deceased persons to pay for the development of a navy in response to strained trade relations with France. After its repeal no other death-related taxes were imposed until the Civil War and went from 1862 and 1870.

The estate tax was imposed in 1898 to finance the Spanish-American War and repealed in 1902.

In 9106 Pres. Theodore Roosevelt proposed a progressive tax on all lifetime gifts and death-time bequests specifically for the purpose of breaking up large concentrations of wealth. No legislation resulted from his proposal.

In response to WWI, the Feds in 1916 adopted a progressive estate tax on all property owned by the a decdent at death, certain lifetime transfers, transfers not intended to take effect until death, and transfers made in contemplation of death.

The 1916 estate tax provided an exemption of 50,000 and rates from 1 to 25 percent.

Following the end of WWI the estate tax was retained but rates on transfers under 1million were reduced.

In 1926 the gift tax was repealed and estate tax rates reduced, but with the coming of the depression and falling government revenue, estate taxes were increased in 1932a 10% surchared added for revenue for the military build up proper to WWII. Estate and gift taxes were increased in 1941 to 77% on transfers in excess of $50 million.

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