What impact would repealing the estate tax have on the distribution of wealth? On the face of it, there should be no doubt that wealth would become more concentrated. Fewer than 2 percent of estates pay any tax at all; and as of 1997, half of the total taxes paid came from estates valued at more than $5 million.
Nonetheless, some conservatives say that the estate tax is a failure because it has not spread wealth more equally. "Wealth is probably more unequally distributed in the United States than in countries with no estate tax," Bruce Bartlett of the libertarian National Center for Policy Analysis wrote last fall in The Public Interest. His conclusion: Since the estate tax is ineffective, we should get rid of it.