CFP: Justice in Inheritance - 13th Braga Summer School in Political Philosophy and Public Policy

Submission deadline: May 29, 2022

Conference date(s):
July 6, 2022 - July 8, 2022

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

CEPS - Centre for Ethics, Politics and Society , University of Minho, Portugal
Braga, Portugal


Deadline for abstract submissions: May 29, 2022


The question of how to justify, address and regulate inheritance is of crucial importance for egalitarians. If contemporary market societies have a tendency to concentrate wealth and capital, the taxation of inheritance and of inter vivos gifts may be one important way to mitigate this dynamic. Whether inheritance should be taxed is an issue that has, however, been fairly neglected by theorists, particularly in the realm of political philosophy. There is also evidence that it arouses a greater deal of opposition than other purportedly egalitarian proposals, namely a wealth tax; opposition not only from the most advantaged but also by those who could gain the most from it.

A concern with the fair value of equality of opportunity may be a consideration in favour of an inheritance tax of some kind. John Rawls defines fair equality of opportunity as equal access to elite positions within institutions (e.g., education, but also political offices, jobs, amongst others) for persons who are similarly endowed and motivated. Unequal wealth inheritance concedes some a comparative advantage in the pursuit of further education and in obtaining cultural resources – in the form of travel, for example – that afford one a greater chance to succeed. Concerns with the impacts of segregation and transmission of social capital might also favour inheritance taxation, if we establish the role inheritance has in transmitting both financial and non-financial capital.
But arguments against inheritance taxation need to be taken seriously, and raise important concerns for a theory of distributive justice, but also claims of economic efficiency. Liberals might argue in defence of inheritance as an important and strong incentive to accumulate wealth. Such an incentive might be essential for further investments and the promotion of economic growth through private ventures. It may also be that inheritance helps keep the middle-class from shrinking, especially during periods of slow wage growth for younger adults.

Inheritance, and its taxation, lies in the intersection of universal claims (such as the fair value of equality of opportunities) and claims of partiality. In this respect, concerns with how taxing inheritance might jeopardise family values might justify having unrestricted inheritance flows, particularly within families.

Finally, it is important to consider how inheritance fits in the institutional framework of a theory of distributive justice. It is particularly important to understand how to include inheritance tax within existing tax systems, while trying to accommodate the subtleties of the moral arguments one might claim when arguing in favour of taxing inheritance. Such considerations are of particular relevance for public policy and will also be considered in our discussion.

Among the questions we are particularly interested in debating are the following:

  • What evidence do we have of the role inheritance plays in wealth concentration, inequality and segregation? Is it a recent phenomenon?
  • What are the main moral arguments in favour and against taxing inheritance? Are they compelling?
  • What are the key family-based arguments surrounding inheritance taxation? Are they compelling?
  • Should there be an inheritance tax, or should we argue for other forms of predistribution or redistribution (e.g. wealth tax; more progressive income taxes).
  • Is taxing inheritance in the public interest, or against it? Can the right to give or receive inheritance be a legitimate interest of the inheritor or the testator, and yet be against the general interest of a society? 
  • Should inheritance be taxed at death or upon receipt? 
  • Is there truth in the double taxation-based objection to inheritance taxation?
  • Should bequests of particular assets, such as housing or family-run businesses, enjoy special protection from taxation?
  • What sort of status should bequests to charitable organisations have?
  • Should bequests to animals be taxed?
  • What is the political economy of inheritance tax? What might explain the current opposition, and how can we overcome it?

If you want to apply, please fill in the form and submit the abstract form (link below). Please provide your name, contact information, affiliation, short bio (no more than 300 words). Abstracts should not be longer than 500 words along with five keywords, prepared for review by 29 May 2022. The deadline for abstract submissions is May 29, 2022.

Any inquiries should be sent to [email protected]. For more information, you can visit the school’s website @

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