Inheritance and the Family
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Applied Philosophy. 2020, 37 (2), 299-313. 10.1111/japp.12389
Inherited wealth will be of increasing importance in years to come. Yet inheritance taxation is unpopular, and part of this unpopularity is due to family concerns. Such taxation is seen by many as morally problematic because it is taken to violate important family values. In this article, we explore five family arguments against inheritance taxation: firstly, whether we have a right to benefit our children; secondly, whether it is a virtue to benefit one's children; thirdly, whether children have a right to their parent's belongings, due to common ownership; fourthly, whether inheritance taxation may impair a vital sense of continuity and belonging; and lastly, an argument from incentives that appeals specifically to the relation between parents and children. We conclude that none of the arguments provide strong objections against a moderate or even a high inheritance tax rate, at least not when special provisions are made for things like family houses or farms. However, since the arguments all introduce concerns that should be assigned some weight, it would be unjust to abolish inheritance entirely.