In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2006 / 23 Teves, 5766

Estate tax

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

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Is it proper to tax bequests?

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. Is it fair to tax bequests?

A. Estate taxes are among the most controversial levies in our economy. Many people believe they are the ideal tax. Middle class individuals earn most of the income, because they are most of the people. But their share of bequests is far lower, since by definition only wealthy people accumulate large fortunes. So bequest taxes are a highly progressive tax, meaning that wealthy people pay a larger share.

Furthermore, many people view it as a tax on unearned income, since the heirs didn't do anything to deserve it. So it is also a fair tax.

Finally, the assumption is that people accumulate money mostly to enjoy the well-being or the honor and power it confers, so that taxing estates doesn't discourage initiative very much. So it is also an efficient tax.

Other people view the estate tax as the most unfair tax possible. Government has a right to tax economic activity, since they contribute to its productivity. So personal and business income taxes are acceptable. But after all these taxes have been paid, what right does the government have to tax the same money yet again, merely because the original earner has passed away?

Bequests are further viewed as one of the main incentives for earning and saving. These individuals view an estate tax as something close to arbitrary confiscation.

From all the sources I have found, the Jewish view is closest to the first approach, the one that legitimates inheritance taxes.

It is true that our law gives bequests a special status. We find this in the Torah (bible), which warns a father not to discriminate in inheritance against the son of a less-favored wife (Deuteronomy 21:17). We find in later legal sources that a son is like a continuation of the father, so that a bequest is not considered completely like a transfer. Finally, we find that the Code of Jewish Law rules that the best policy is to leave most of the estate to the offspring, leaving a meaningful minority for charity. (1)

However, as we wrote in a previous column, Jewish tradition does not particularly encouraging saving up during life specifically in order to bequeath property to offspring. "Rav said to Rav Hamnuna, If you have wealth, enjoy it. For there is no enjoyment in the grave, and no leisure after death. And if you should say, I must leave it to my children… people are like plants: as these flourish others wilt." (2) Rather than hoarding, parents should help their children to the best of their ability during their lifetimes; ultimately, it is the responsibility of the child to find a flourishing livelihood.

And the custom has been to consider bequests as income for all practical purposes, especially as relates to tithes and communal taxes. For example, the renowned Enlightenment authority Rabbi Yeshahayu Horowitz writes: "Even if the father was scrupulous his whole life to give tithes, even so now that the son has acquired [the property], why shouldn't he take tithes from what G-d has given him? (3)

Leaving bequests is an honored tradition in Judaism, and it is certainly proper for parents to help their children while they leave and also ultimately as they leave this world for the next. A confiscatory inheritance tax would certainly interfere with this.

At the same time, estates have never been seen as the main reason for saving and accumulation, and modest taxes and tithes on estates have been long sanctioned.

SOURCES: (1) Rema, Choshen Mishpat 282 (2) Eiruvin 54a. (3) Shela Laws of Charity and Tithes; see also Aruch HaShulchan, Yoreh Deah 249:6.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


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© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics