Journal of Business Economics

, Volume 89, Issue 5, pp 599–626 | Cite as

Inheritance tax planning with uncertain future payroll expenses: an analytical solution to the optimal choice between full and standard exemption

  • Markus Diller
  • Thomas Späth
  • Johannes LorenzEmail author
Original Paper


Under the German Inheritance Tax and Gift Tax Act, the transfer of business assets can be exempted from taxation up to 100%. However, this exemption depends on the evolution of the company’s payroll, which is highly uncertain. We model the uncertain nature of payroll evolution using a Geometric Brownian motion. We obtain closed-form solutions for the expected effective exemption and for the expected effective tax rate. We find that the uncertainty effect is most pronounced for moderate negative and positive growth rates. Furthermore, higher uncertainty reduces the value of the effective tax exemption. Also, we find that the (partially progressive) German inheritance tax function by trend promotes standard exemption. The results enable tax planners to make an optimal choice between standard or full exemption and allow for calculating the expected tax burden.


Inheritance tax Preferential tax treatment Brownian motion 

JEL Classification

C61 D81 H30 K34 



We thank the editor and two anonymous referees for insightful comments that have significantly improved this paper. Also, we want to thank Hans-Georg Schwarz for helpful comments and for translating an earlier version of this paper into English. All errors are our own.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PassauPassauGermany

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