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The Tax Foundation is the nation’s leading independent tax policy nonprofit. Since 1937, our principled research, insightful analysis, and engaged experts have informed smarter tax policy at the federal, state, and global levels. For over 80 years, our goal has remained the same: to improve lives through tax policies that lead to greater economic growth and opportunity.
The federal government taxes transfers of wealth in three ways: through the estate tax, the gift tax and the generation-skipping transfer tax. Together these taxes make up the federal transfer tax system. In addition, many U.S. states impose estate taxes.
Estate taxes and generation-skipping transfer taxes are paid on the contents of estates or proceeds of trusts, while transfers of wealth between living persons are subject to gift taxes. The federal government enacted the first estate tax in 1916. Studies routinely find that estate taxes discourage entrepreneurship and lead to large tax compliance costs.
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