The US experience with the estate tax and its implications for wealth transfer taxation in Latin America

This article focuses on whether introducing wealth transfer taxes or expanding the existing ones might be effective in mitigating the income and wealth disparities that characterize the countries of Latin America. In particular, the article examines how the experience with estate and gift taxation in the United States, including the recent reform measures that phase out the tax entirely by 2010 only to have it re-emerge in full force in 2011, might inform the debate on the use of similar taxes in Latin America. Part 2 provides some recent data on the extent of income inequality in Latin America and discusses the social problems associated with such inequality. Part 3 summarizes the current extent of wealth transfer taxation in Latin America, and Part 4 reviews the history of estate and gift taxation in the USA and comments on the use of wealth transfer taxes in the other OECD countries. Part 5 examines the many economic arguments for and against wealth transfer taxes, focusing on the issues of efficiency, equity, simplicity in compliance and administration. The final part draws out the implications of both the recent US experience and the economic literature on wealth transfers for the use of estate and inheritance taxation in Latin America.