Journal Article To Avoid or Not to Avoid Inheritance Taxes? That Is the Question for Parents: Empirical Evidence from Japan

Yoko, Niimi

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This paper examines the behavioral response of households to wealth transfer taxation using household survey data from Japan. The data reveal that relatively few households plan to reallocate the newly taxable amount of wealth to their own consumption or inter vivos transfers in response to the recent lowering of the basic deduction of the inheritance tax, largely because of a lack of concern about taxes. This may partly reflect the fact that bequest motives are relatively weak and/or that the majority of saving is for either retirement or precautionary purposes in Japan. However, our estimation results also suggest that parents with an altruistic motive for bequests are more likely to avoid an increase in their children’s tax bill by reallocating the newly taxable amount of wealth to inter vivos transfers. Parents with an exchange motive for bequests are also found to be responsive to changes in tax policy, but their reaction is heterogeneous: some of them reallocate the newly taxable amount of wealth to their own consumption while others reallocate it to inter vivos transfers.
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