Tax Avatars

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Anyone who has spent time in cyberspace understands the concept of an alter ego. In online games, chat rooms and on the internet generally, users select one or more avatars to represent themselves. Avatars function as the end-user’s alter ego. The avatar may be a three-dimensional character in a multiplayer game or a two-dimensional icon on a bulletin board. This article uses the concept of avatars to explain the tax treatment of real-life alter egos: agents under a power of attorney. Specifically, the article discusses (1) how traditional, standard legal instruments can be used to create legal alter egos; (2) how and why these legal avatars receive favorable transfer tax treatment; (3) how uniform laws are changing to protect legal avatars; (4) whether new legislation will increase or decrease the use of legal avatars; and (5) how scholars might use the tax treatment of legal avatars to advocate for the favorable tax treatment of relationships that arise by choice.

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