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Inheritance Tax

Something which is called an inheritance tax or in other terms an estate tax is a levy paid by a person who inherits money or property or a mostly a tax on the estate including money and property of a person who has died or passed away. In the international tax law, there is a distinction between an estate tax and an inheritance tax. Basically, an estate tax is assessed on the assets of the deceased, while an inheritance tax is assessed on the legacies which is then received by the beneficiaries of the estate. However, this distinction may not always be respected in the language of tax laws. For example, the so called “inheritance tax” in the United Kingdom is a tax on the assets of the deceased, and will then therefore be , strictly speaking, a type of estate tax. For historical reasons, the term death duty is still actually used colloquially but not legally in the United Kingdom and some Commonwealth countries to refer to the estate tax as well.

No inheritance tax has actually been recorded for the Roman Republic, despite abundant evidence for testamentary law. The vicesima hereditatium or the twentieth of inheritance was levied by Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, and this was done in the last decade of his reign. The 5 percent tax which is applied only to inheritances received through a will, and those close relatives were exempt from paying it, this was including the deceased’s grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and siblings. The question asked then of whether a spouse was exempt is complicated. Usually from the late Republic on, husbands and wives kept their own property mostly separate, since a Roman woman had remained part of her birth family and not under the legal control of her husband. Roman social values which are regarding marital devotion probably exempted a spouse as well. Estates which are below a certain value were also exempt from the tax, according to one source, but other evidence would then indicate that this was true only in the early years of Trajan’s reign. The revenues from the tax had went into a fund to pay military retirement benefits or the aerarium militare, along with those from a new sales tax or the centesima rerum venalium, a 1 percent tax on goods sold at auction. The inheritance tax is then extensively documented in sources pertaining to Roman law, inscriptions, and papyri as well. It was part of one of three major indirect taxes levied on Roman citizens in the provinces of the Empire.

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