Jeffrey Cooper (Quinnipiac), The Estate Tax Of Our Youth JOTWELL (July 19, 2016) (reviewing Paul L. Caron (Pepperdine), The One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Federal Estate Tax: It’s Time to Renew Our Vows, 57 B.C. L. Rev. 823 (2016)):
In The One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Federal Estate Tax: It’s Time to Renew Our Vows, Paul L. Caron tracks how the modern estate tax has evolved since its 1916 inception and contends the tax should be modified to serve its original purposes. Caron analogizes the nation’s relationship to the estate tax as that of an aging marriage, arguing that our passion for the tax has cooled with the passage of time. He urges us to find that lost passion and renew our vows to the estate tax we once so adored. To do so, we must reinvigorate the estate tax and restore it to its historical position as an important, robust component of our federal tax system.
Caron contends that Congress enacted the federal estate tax in 1916 to serve three policy ends. First, the act was enacted as a revenue measure, conceived in part to meet the increasing fiscal obligations in the era of World War I. Second, the tax was designed to increase the progressivity of the tax system as a whole, counterbalancing a growing inequality of income in the early twentieth century. Third, the tax was structured to help curb rising concentrations of American wealth. Caron contends that these three goals are as relevant, and important, today as they were a century ago. To meet them, he urges, the federal estate tax should be reinvigorated by reversing the recent trend toward higher exemption levels and lower rates. Paraphrasing Proverbs 5:18, Caron urges us to restore “the estate tax of our youth.” ...
In sum, Caron contends, the America of 2016 looks similar to that of 1916 in numerous key ways. We are a nation at war in need of revenue, and inequalities of growth and income have risen to alarming levels. In 2016 as in 1916, the estate tax offers at least a partial solution to all of these ills. Although the estate tax seemingly has gone out of vogue with many politicians and policymakers, Caron urges us to rediscover the love we once felt for her.
Caron’s work is a pithy tour through of a century’s worth of economic history and estate tax policy. I recommend it highly.