Saturday, April 25, 2015

Inheritance Tax

The Swiss will vote on June 14 whether to introduce a national inheritance tax of 20% of estates above CHF 2 million.

The text foresees unspecified exemptions for entrepreneurs (which by some is interpreted as an exemption of CHF 50 million and/or a lower tax rate of 5%) and retroactive implementation.

Currently it is unlikely that the new law (actually change of constitution) will be approved by the population as polls indicate a majority against the proposal.

In general I favour much lower tax loads as currently imposed almost anywhere, nevertheless in principle inheritance taxes are probably relatively fairer than other taxes. However, if I could vote in Switzerland I would be strongly against it, because of the following reasons:

- Retroactive implementation
- No offset with other taxes (say reduction of income and wealth taxes by the same amount)
- Unfairness (different treatment of entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs)
- Rate induces evasion and optimization (5% is probably the rate where these effects starts to play)

Possibly also the high exemption rate is negative because it disenfranchises the richer members of society as they see only themselves contributing (and receiving very little in return).

If I were to design an inheritance tax for Switzerland I would support it with the following parameters

- 5% rate
- no or very low exemption (say 5x minimum state pension of CHF 14´100)
- no exceptions (for entrepreneurs or otherwise)
- everybody is taxed (also surviving spouses and charity)
- abolishment of wealth tax

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