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death duties

death duties. Death is considered to be a ‘taxable event’. The taxation of inheritance (on the acquisition of property from a person who has died) provided a source of government revenue in Roman times. A death tax was introduced in Britain in 1694 but the modern framework dates from 1779–80. Since 1894, when Sir William Harcourt introduced a new system in the teeth of fierce opposition, death duties have mainly been in the form of estate duties (on property left at death), although for a period from 1975 they were replaced by capital transfer tax which applied to transfers of property at any time, including death. Death duties differ from property taxation in that there is only one assessment. Normally some portion or types of assets or bequests are exempt from taxation. It is for this reason that death duties tend to be relatively complicated and seldom either provide a good source of revenue or bring about significant wealth redistribution.

Kenneth Button

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