San Diego Law Review


Ronald Maudsley

Library of Congress Authority File


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The last major reform in the United States estate and gift tax occurred in 1954. The system still needs further reform. Although the Tax Reform Act of 1969 originally was intended to reach the estate and gift tax area, the reform effort expired. The political focus of reform is less powerful in the estate and gift tax area then in that of income and social security taxes because most Americans do no leave a taxable estate or even need to file estate returns. The motivation to reduce estate and gift tax is not as broadly based as the motivation to reduce income tax. Even the wealthy have little motivation to push for reform. The present system, although it might theoretically tax at a confiscatory rate of seventy-seven percent, is replete with avenues which lead to a much reduced actual tax rate. Lifetime gifts are a common and effective means of reducing the actual tax effect on a capital transfer, and the wealthy normally nave the economic flexibility to use lifetime transfers advantageously. There has been some movement for reform however, promoted largely by farmers who lack the economic flexibility to avoid the high estate tax rates by proper lifetime transfers.

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