Document Type



"It has been noted … that the Reform Act amendments of the estate and gift taxes are exceedingly complex, technically flawed in many respects, and frequently reflect policy judgments of questionable soundness." (Professor John H. McCord)

"The perhaps surprising conclusion compelled by our findings is that today's millionaires, .as well as persons of lesser wealth, no more need pay a stiff estate and gift tax than did their predecessors. It may be that the real certainties of this world are death and tax avoidance." (Professor George Cooper)

The two quotations at the head of this article are examples of the malaise within the legal profession concerning the lack of clarity in the gift and estate tax laws. The difficulties do not arise within the context of the two goals of the gift and estate tax statutes: to raise revenue and to equalize the distribution of wealth. Rather, the main problems inhere in the conceptual differences that decision makers demonstrate in defining and giving operational indices to such words as "property," "power," "rights," "controls," "enjoyment," "transfer," and "intent." These terms are construed to hamper as well as to assist the larger goals of revenue raising and of breaking down entrenched wealth.


J. Allen Smith is Professor of Law, Rutgers University Law School, Newark, New Jersey. B.A., Erskine College, 1942; LL.B., University of Florida, 1948; S.J.D., Yale University, 1958.

Publication Date


Included in

Law Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.