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Estate Taxation with Warm-Glow Altruism

This article examines the properties of the optimal fiscal policy in an economy with warm-glow altruism (utility interdependence) and heterogeneous individuals. We propose a new efficiency concept, D-efficiency, that considers an implicit constraint in the act of giving: donors cannot bequeath to donees more than their existing resources. Considering this constraint, we show that the market equilibrium is not socially efficient. The efficient level of bequest transfers can be implemented by the market with estate and labor-income subsidies and a capital-income tax. In the absence of lump-sum taxation, the government faces a trade-off between minimizing distortions and eliminating external effects. The implied tax policy differs from Pigovian taxation since the government’s ability to correct the external effects is limited. Finally, we show that the efficiency-equity trade-off does not affect the qualitative features of the optimal distortionary fiscal policy.

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