Bequest taxes, donations, and house prices

Giorgio Bellettini 2 , Filippo Taddei 1 ,  and Giulio Zanella 2
  • 1 SAIS – The Johns Hopkins University, Bologna, Italy and Collegio Carlo Alberto, Turin, Italy
  • 2 University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
Giorgio Bellettini, Filippo Taddei and Giulio Zanella

Abstract

This paper is an empirical investigation into the effect of bequest taxes (estate or inheritance tax, in the US) and inter vivos real estate donations taxes (gift tax, in the US) on (i) house prices, (ii) house donations, and (iii) market transactions. In a simple model with intergenerational altruism, a lower tax rate unambiguously increases (i) and has an ambiguous effect on (ii) and (iii). We test these predictions using an original and unique data set containing information on sales, donations and real estate prices in 13 large Italian cities between 1993 and 2004. This period spans a major reform that first decreased and then abolished the inter vivos real estate donations tax and bequest tax in Italy. We find that the reform is associated with cumulative real appreciation of about 5% between 2001 and 2004, an increase in donations, and a decrease in market transactions over the same period.

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