Tuesday, 14 April 2015

There is no "inheritance tax"

here - at present. There are rumbles that it should be re-introduced - and, of course, they have other ways of getting at you. 
Our tax system is one of the most complicated - if not the most complicated - in the world. Some people make a lot of money from it. Most of them are accountants and lawyers.
"Inheritance tax would simplify things," someone told me yesterday, "You shouldn't be able to leave your kids anything if they haven't worked for it. My kids aren't getting anything from me. Inheritance tax should be all you've got."
I don't agree. His kids should get something just for putting up with him.
But, more seriously, inheritance tax is not good psychology. To be required to leave your entire estate to the government would have far reaching consequences. "Tax" is an unpopular concept with most people and the notion that one should work and accumulate wealth just in order to return it all to the government would have people working on all possible ways and means to avoid leaving anything behind. 
Would people save for the future? Probably not. What would be the point? How do you provide for vulnerable family members, the very young, the very old or the ill? Is there any point in maintaining a property when the government would benefit from the improvements? Why bother to save for your own aged care?  You might die within minutes of retirement and not benefit at all - and your family won't benefit either. 
Of course there is the argument that the people who inherit are "getting something they didn't work for" and that "wealth doesn't get distributed to those who need it most". There will always be people who get something for which they did not work but more people work for their inheritance than is generally realised. And how do you define "need"? Is it the family with medical expenses brought on by an undetected inherited illness  - or the family with medical expenses brought on by a parent who has been drinking and crashed the family car? Is it the family who have saved carefully and gone without to buy their own home or the family who have spent their income on enjoying themselves and who are now looking for housing?
I understand the UK is currently looking at inheritance tax - and ways to increase it. I can also understand the desire to do so. It's an attractive idea which doesn't seem, at first glance, to hurt anyone but it can have unintended consequences. There is a word which needs to go with words like "tax", "inheritance", "wealth", "income", "benefits" and the like. It is the word "responsibility".
I won't have much to leave but I would object to it being used on those who have taken no responsibility for their own welfare when there are those who have and are still in need.
How you sort out that out though is beyond me.

1 comment:

jeanfromcornwall said...

Actually, in this current election, one of the parties is talking of making lower-valued family homes exempt from inheritance tax - an indication of how much the property market has gone mad here.
What is the difference between inheritance tax and the feudal obligation to give the lord of the manor your Father's best cow when he dies? (And your sister, when she marries)