Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
Arguing against inheritance tax, many people take the rhetorical line of asking why, if people have already paid tax on their wealth as they earn it, should they pay tax again when they die? Dupes.
If I were to hire my son to work for me, he would have to pay tax on his income. But I have already paid tax on the money that I am paying him with. More, this is earned income, not, as with inheritance, an unearned windfall. Should we end this case of double taxation and reward the far more worthy wealth accrual of the employed son?
Of course, anyone receiving a taxable income from any source is a victim of double taxation. Hang on, no. As there are an endless number of links in this chain of income and taxation everyone is the victim of INFINITY taxation. Alert the Daily Mail!
What of the argument; ‘it is my money, I ought to be able to do with it as I wish’? Well, the same problems apply. If you are an Ayn Randian zero-taxer, then all power to you. But, if you believe that there should be any form of tax, you will inevitably arrive at a point where it is possible to claim ‘double taxation’, and, after a moment’s reflection, ‘taxation to infinity’.
Or, how about; ‘I’ve earned my money, so…’ – let me stop that one right there. You have earned your money. The beneficiaries of your will have not. If you justify your own wealth by means of the workings of some kind of meritocratic economy, then you have laid the first planks of an argument against you children receiving a windfall of unearned wealth.
Finally, what if you were to say; ‘okay the Daily Mail arguments are just nonsense. But wouldn’t it be better to scrap inheritance tax and put more on income tax’? This is incredibly regressive. Inheritance tax is not simply a means to raise funds for state spending, but a means to prevent the incremental concentration of wealth through generations, a problem made even worse as family size shrinks. Imagine, say, this situation. Person A has an identical character, personality, education and subsequent career to that of Person B. Despite their class differences, the wonderful meritocratic economy ensures that these largely identical people receive identical careers and earned income. But Person A inherits a large house at, say, 40. Person B inherits nothing. Given that most people have not paid off their mortgage at 40, Person B is, in an instant more than twice as wealthy as person A. As Person A and Person B are of identical worth in the terms of this perfectly meritocratic economy, Person A will never be as wealthy as Person B. If we add in the perfectly reasonable assumption that wealth begets wealth, through, say, investment in property and exploitation of the superior market position of the wealthy, this disparity between our two people of equal worth, according to market-derived moral justifications of inequality, then this disparity will increase as we pass through the similarly identical subsequent generations of A1, B1 and A2, B2. Somewhere down the line Bn is the landlord and employer of An.
The only escape from this is to deny that earned wealth is morally deserved, in which case you undercut the ideology that accepts economic inequality in the first place. So long as we, or at least, society at large, accept this ideology, then inheritance tax, set high, is a moral necessity.