Premature deaths, accidental bequests, and fairness*

Marc Fleurbaey, Marie Louise Leroux, Pierre Pestieau, Gregory Ponthiere, Stephane Zuber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

While there is little agreement regarding the taxation of bequests in general, there is a widely held view that accidental bequests should be subjected to a confiscatory tax. We re-examine the optimal taxation of accidental bequests by introducing a concern for compensating individuals for a premature death. Assuming that individuals care about what they leave to their children, we show that, whereas the 100 percent tax view holds under the utilitarian criterion, the ex post egalitarian criterion (giving priority to the worst-off ex post) implies subsidizing accidental bequests so as to compensate the short-lived. In a second-best setting, compensating the short-lived justifies taxing total bequests at a rate increasing with the age of the deceased. Finally, when the model is extended to an intergenerational setting, accidental bequests can no longer be used as a redistributive tool, so that ex post egalitarianism rejoins the 100 percent tax view.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScandinavian Journal of Economics
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics

Keywords

  • Accidental bequests
  • compensation
  • mortality
  • optimal taxation
  • overlapping generations models

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