Can a zombie avoid the estate tax?

Phillip Bantz, The Daily Record Newswire

With all the talk of a zombie apocalypse this year — who could forget the crazed, naked, face-eating zombie in Miami? — it was only a matter of time before a lawyer began identifying the tax loopholes and pitfalls that await the undead.

In a law review essay titled “Death and Taxes and Zombies,” Adam Chodorow, a professor and associate dean at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, delves into the tax issues facing zombies, vampires and even ghosts. (Really. We’re not making this up.)

“This study highlights the flawed assumption that lies at the heart of our tax code, namely that death may not be permanent, and reveals Congress’s complete lack of foresight in designing the nation’s tax laws,” Chodorow writes.

His essay — which cites sources such as the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Harry Potter” and the AMC’s hit zombie series “The Walking Dead,” and also includes a brief history lesson on zombies — tackles complex tax and estate planning questions concerning the undead.

For instance, should zombies be classified as dead under state law and have to pay an estate tax?

Well, it depends, according to Chodorow. He says “self-motivated zombies,” those who are not controlled by a curse or other form of dark magic, might still be considered alive and the estate tax would not be triggered until they were killed once and for all.

“Were this the rule, people might have incentives to become zombies to delay the application of the estate tax,” he writes.

Chodorow also expresses frustration about our lawmakers’ “utter failure” to address whether a person who becomes a zombie should be considered dead while their body roams the earth feasting on human flesh.

“This failure is all the more surprising given that the large majority of our legislators claim to be devout Christians, whose religion is based on a resurrection and who purportedly believe in resurrection of the dead,” he writes.

Chodorow also discusses whether the controversial Defense of Marriage Act applies to vampires. Would a wife who becomes a vampire still be defined as a woman and be able to retain marital status with her husband under DOMA? Chodorow thinks not.

“Some vampires can turn into bats, wolves or grey mist,” he writes. “If DOMA is to be taken seriously, a vampire cannot be considered a woman, and therefore married, while in non-human form.”

Unlike vampires and zombies, ghosts are clearly dead for purposes of the law, Chodorow says. Theoretically, though, they could still be subject to income taxes. But since most ghosts are unemployed, “the question of earned income is typically moot,” he says.

In his conclusion, Chodorow urges Congress to address the looming crisis of the living dead before it’s too late, observing that lawmakers have been “locked in a form of partisan rigor mortis” for the last several years.

Chodorow’s essay is slated for publication in the Iowa Law Review. A message left at his office was not returned by press time. Possibly he was out stocking up on wooden stakes and such.

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