The undeserving and the inheritance tax

Individuals, those pesky little citizens who hold private property, are undeserving. That’s the dystopian logic, the secular equivalent of original sin, behind the central premise of a 100% inheritance tax. The advocates of such an extreme levy usually trot out the ‘accident of birth’ cliché.

Through brute luck someone is set to inherit vast amounts of money. You should have to earn such a fortune, therefore the dosh from your dead granny will be handed over to the state so that much more deserving civil servants, overseen by omnipotent politicians, can distribute the cash into welfare programmes.

So the consequential — ‘it’s for the greater good, comrade’ — argument goes, and has been going on in Britain since estate taxes, in their modern form, were introduced in the 19th Century.

Railing against all forms of taxation is downright odd of course. Through tacit and actual consent, if you give much regard to local and general elections, people are happy to hand over a proportion of their income to the state so that hospitals are built and armies are maintained.

But there’s something particularly nasty and underhanded about any inheritance tax, never-mind a 100% levy on someone’s estate. That is because, given that they are not crooks, people pay a string of taxes, including stamp duties, VAT, National Insurance Contributions and income tax, throughout their lifetime.

The state, in other words, is regularly extracting money from individuals. A special onus therefore must be on it to prove it is somehow more worthy than private citizens or the family, as an institution, to take someone’s estate at death.

It would be like paying for a phone contract only to see your beloved Nokia 3310, with hours and hours of Snake playing progress, being confiscated after two years. What a raw deal.

Another real-life problem for the left-wing utilitarian calling for a 100% inheritance tax is mega-rich do-gooders like Bill and Melinda Gates.

If taking a full-wedge of someone’s life’s earnings away is for the greater good, why does the welfare state trump charitable causes like fighting the scourge of Malaria in the third-world?

The 100% inheritance tax advocate, by following their own ill-thought-out logic, is consistently met with dilemma and paradox. There’s no sound moral argument here, and we haven’t even touched upon the economic or political realities of such a levy.