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Citizens' initiative to abolish inheritance tax proceeds to Parliament

A total of 22 initiatives have been tabled for Parliament's agenda so far, while 650 citizens' initiatives failed to gain the required number of signatures.

According to backers of the initiative, the State's "tax bears" punish bereaved people by taking a big bite of inheritances. Image: Miiku Lehtelä / Yle

A citizens' initiative to abolish inheritance and gift taxes in Finland has gained the required 50,000 signatures to be eligible for Parliamentary consideration. It becomes the 22nd citizen’s initiative to gain a spot on Parliament’s agenda.

Numerous justifications for the repeal of the inheritance and gift tax have been put forth. The authors of the initiative claim the inheritance tax is a state punishment on individuals grieving the death of a loved one.

The initiative states that many move their assets overseas to avoid the inheritance tax, while in other cases, heirs are forced to sell their own assets in order to be able to afford to pay inheritance tax.

In addition, the initiative claims the tax can complicate entrepreneurship issues when a business is passed down to the next generation. The process is prolonged because of the inheritance tax.

SDP: Only very big inheritances face high taxation

The two main government parties, the Centre and the National Coalition (NCP), who have previously criticised the inheritance tax, now say they don't support the immediate abolition of the tax, but rather would be ready to lighten it.

Interviewed by the STT News Agency, representatives of both parties said it would be impossible to entirely do away with the inheritance tax in the current economic climate. The estimated gain from the inheritance and gift taxes for the year’s budget is estimated to be around 720 million euros. According to the NCP, the tax could be gradually repealed over time.

The biggest party opposing the initiative is the Social Democratic Party, which notes that there are reductions in place for current heirs and that only very large inheritances come with a high inheritance tax.

One initiative too many?

The most popular initiatives have broken the 50,000 signature limit almost immediately after being launched.

As citizens' initiatives have begun to increase at a steady pace, discussions have also taken place about raising the required number of signatures. Over the spring, the Ministry of Justice will explore how the current method of citizens' initiatives works and how it could be improved.

A total of 723 citizens' initiatives have been launched so far, whilst 650 of them have expired due to a lack of signatures numbers.

Many initiatives only muster a few names. For example, an initiative to cut the number and pay of both MPs and cabinet posts by half drew only 49 names. Another initiative against the needless cutting down of deciduous trees gathered a total of nine signatures.

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