A study of the use of the inheritance tax in foreign countries reveals how dilatory America has been in seizing upon the principle. The tax has been extensively used in Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Holland, Italy, Germany, Greece, France, Russia, England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Portugal, Austria, and many other countries. Highly progressive rates are found in many of these countries, particularly in France, England, Australia, and Switzerland. The tax seems to have had its broadest development in the more democratic countries.
To go into the study of the inheritance tax in these foreign countries would take us too far afield. A brief glance at a few of them, however, will be worth while for the purpose of comparing them with the taxes used in the United States. England has used the tax since 1780. Amendments have been made until the tax takes three forms: one on the general estate, one on the personal property, and one on real estate. The amounts are graduated and taxed at a progressive rate, ranging from 1 to 23 per cent. In France the maximum rate imposed upon collateral inheritances is over 20 per cent, while the maximum rate upon direct estates is about 5 per cent. In Italy and Germany the rates have been somewhat higher. The Australasian and Canadian provinces have followed the lead of the Mother country, and are making extensive use of the tax with steeply progressive rates.
Since the inheritance tax so admirably supplements income taxes, and since each has become so deservedly popular, it is not too much to predict that each will hold a place of vital importance in the revenue systems, not only of Federal governments, but also of the provinces and states. Because of its backwardness in the past the United States may be looked upon to furnish examples of the most rapid extension of the use of inheritance taxes during the next few decades.
Max West, Inheritance Tax. Blakemore and Bancroft, Inheritance Taxes. Seligman, Essays in Taxation, chap. v. Proceedings of the National Tax Association, 1913, pp. 283-320; 1919, pp. 273-293; 1920, pp. 78-95.