To the Editor:

If Will Edwards’ complaint that the inheritance tax is a case of double taxation were true, it would not make the tax “patently unfair,” as he claims (“Current tax rates place excessive burden on rich,” 2/25).

Double taxation is not at all uncommon. People pay income tax on their income, and then pay sales tax when they use that money to make purchases.

His assertion that the inheritance tax “affects individuals who have already paid taxes on their wealth during their lives” is not entirely true.

Admittedly, most property included in inheritances has likely been taxed before, as have income and capital gains. But not all the value of inheritances falls into those categories. Inheritances can also be made of other types of wealth that are not taxed. Therefore, wealth of this type is only taxed when it is inherited.

Studies have shown surprisingly little wealth mobility in the United States, supposedly the “Land of Opportunity” and home of the “American Dream,” where anyone can become fabulously wealthy through hard work. Doing away with our less-than-airtight inheritance tax would only help ensure that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.

This would likely contribute to the already existing American aristocracy, where the societal elite and leaders come from a small circle of wealthy people or even the same family, regardless of dubious qualifications and little effort of their own expended to earn such wealth or position.

Please don’t say the rich are being treated unfairly. Lower tax rates for the wealthy are in the best interest of some Americans — the wealthy themselves. I have a hard time believing that in our democratic nation our tax system is not even more progressive when I consider what is in the best interest of the majority of Americans.

Luke Garrett ’02

February 26, 2002