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Common Objections to Inheritance Tax

By: Mike Watson - Updated: 20 Mar 2012 | comments*Discuss
Inheritance Tax Objections House Prices

There are many objections to inheritance tax, a tax that some even go so far as to refer to as the ‘evil tax’. It is easy to see why such a tax would meet with such strong feelings, coming as it does at a point when someone has passed away and might, if the tax did not exist, leave all of their money to their chosen loved ones.

Key Objections

Many object as the inheritance tax is paid twice on goods (a 'double tax'), savings or property – once at the points of sale and once when the owner of the goods, savings or property have been passed on to their children or loved ones. Presumably, if the benefactor decided to further sell significantly valuable items or housing that they inherited they would be subject to capital gains tax. If whoever then possessed the item they would then be liable to pay inheritance tax, and so on. This means that the taxis perpetuated and is seen by many as a cynical gesture by the government to keep on taking money from hard working persons.

A further objection is that Inheritance Tax is unavoidable provided that you have assets above a certain amount, an amount that gradually tallies with the average total assets owned by persons in old age. This flies in the face of general political policy in this country as we have moved since the Thatcher administration to the implementation of taxes that can be better chosen by the individual: we choose what we buy and therefore have some control over what we pay in terms of Value added Tax; we choose how much we drive and what fuel we use (to some extent); we choose whether to drink or smoke, and we can get tax relief on donations to charities, should we choose. The Inheritance Tax as a ‘tax on death’ clearly demotes a completely different set of values however, and is suggestive of a state apparatus that aims to control us even in our death, and to control the choices we make as our final parting wishes (i.e. what we leave to those still living). The inheritance tax in this sense is contrary to the principles of a liberal democracy.

It could be argued that the Inheritance Tax is a tax on the hard working and the conscientious who choose to keep on to their assets instead of squandering them so that they may then claim benefits to help them through retirement. In this sense it might be further argued that the spoils of one persons hard work are then given to the idle living, rather than to the children that they reared.

It is further objected, on a different note, that with the house prices generally rising year on year, and with Inheritance Tax being payable on total assets (therefore including the total value of your house) more and more people are being liable to Inheritance tax, despite those persons not being particularly wealthy. In light of this last point, government proposals have been made to raise the inheritance tax threshold, which is already due to raise from £300’000 to £350’000 in the coming years.

You can see from these principle arguments that there are many solid arguments against inheritance tax. However our related article entitled ‘In Favour of Inheritance Tax’ offers some contrasting views.

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