Inheritance taxes in Australia: A matter of indifference, not taboo

Michael Gilding, Lee Glezos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The failure of the Henry Tax Review to fuel public debate around inheritance taxes in Australia leads some commentators to suggest that inheritance taxes are taboo in Australia. This article uses Beckert's historical analysis of inheritance law in the United States, Germany and France to assess this claim from a comparative perspective. It argues that the discursive field around inheritance taxes in Australia aligns most closely with that in the United States, but that there are substantial differences nonetheless. Whereas in the United States inheritance taxes are a touchstone for competing visions of liberal society, in Australia liberal ideals are heavily moderated by diverse pragmatic considerations. The upshot is a long tradition of bipartisanship and relative indifference around inheritance taxes, making it difficult to promote public debate as proposed by the Henry Review. At the same time, the fiscal challenges identified by the Henry Review-arising especially from the ageing of the population-means that we should not exaggerate the obstacles to their reinstatement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-43
Number of pages21
JournalAustralian Journal of Social Issues
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bequest tax
  • Death duties
  • Estate tax
  • Inheritance tax
  • Social liberalism


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