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The legacy of the Swedish gift and inheritance tax, 1884–2004

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  • OHLSSON, HENRY

Abstract

This paper has two objectives. The first is to study the revenue from the gift, inheritance, and estate taxes in Sweden during more than a century. The second is to focus on a unique episode during the second half of the 1940s when gifts and gift tax revenue exploded. This episode has never before been discussed in the research literature. It gives an extremely clear illustration of behavioural response to taxes in general, and the impact of expectations of future tax increases in particular. It is also a very interesting episode in the economic history of Sweden. I have access to aggregate tax revenue data since 1884. Moreover, I have constructed a rich micro data set of all gifts reported during the period 1942-1949 in one county. A first main result is that gift tax revenue during the 1940s started to increase long before a new estate tax and increased wealth taxation were decided an implemented. The increase even began before the legislative process started. Second, both the number and the average values of gifts increased. Promissory notes were, in value, the most common way to give. Finally, gifts, inheritances, and estates were never important sources of tax revenue. Revenue as a share of GDP reached a peak already in the 1930s. The role of these taxes has instead primarily been equity and to provide integrity for other tax bases.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal European Review of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 15 (2011)
Issue (Month): 03 (December)
Pages: 539-569

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Handle: RePEc:cup:ereveh:v:15:y:2011:i:03:p:539-569_00

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Cited by:
  1. Elinder, Mikael & Erixson, Oscar & Ohlsson, Henry, 2010. "The Effect of Inheritance Receipt on Labor and Capital Income: Evidence from Swedish Panel Data," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2010:3, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  2. Wojciech Kopczuk, 2012. "Taxation of Intergenerational Transfers and Wealth," NBER Working Papers 18584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ohlsson, Henry & Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2014. "Inherited Wealth over the Path of Development: Sweden, 1810–2010," Working Paper Series 1033, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  4. Erixson, Oscar, 2014. "Health responses to a wealth shock: Evidence from a Swedish tax reform," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2014:3, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  5. Du Rietz, Gunnar & Henrekson, Magnus & Waldenström, Daniel, 2012. "The Swedish Inheritance and Gift Taxation, 1885–2004," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2012:11, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  6. Erixson, Oscar, 2014. "Health Responses to a Wealth Shock: Evidence from a Swedish Tax Reform," Working Paper Series 1011, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  7. Du Rietz, Gunnar & Henrekson, Magnus, 2014. "Swedish Wealth Taxation, 1911–2007," Working Paper Series 1000, Research Institute of Industrial Economics, revised 21 Mar 2014.

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