Death Taxes In The United States: A Brief History

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Eddie Metrejean
Cheryl Metrejean


Estate tax, gift tax, tax history, death taxes


Death taxes have been used in various forms in the United States, from a simple stamp tax to the complex estate tax currently in use. On June 7, 2001, President George W. Bush signed legislation that would abolish the federal estate tax in 2010. This would end a 200 year history of death taxes in the U.S., at least for one year, unless Congress changes that legislation. Experts are still debating whether Congress will take such action.  This paper examines the history of death taxes, including stamp taxes, inheritance taxes, and estate taxes, in the U.S. and the reasons that death taxes were enacted. They were usually enacted as revenue raising provisions, but some feel that their potential for redistributing wealth is a better reason for their existence. This paper also examines the current estate tax and why such a tax on the wealthy has had the support of several wealthy and influential individuals.


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