The missing wealth of nations: Are Europe and the U.S. net debtors or net creditors?
AbstractThis paper shows that official statistics substantially underestimate the net foreign asset positions of rich countries because they fail to capture most of the assets held by households in offshore tax havens. Drawing on systematic anomalies in portfolio investment positions and a unique Swiss dataset, I find that 8% of the global financial wealth of households is held in tax havens, 6% of which goes unrecorded. On the basis of plausible assumptions, accounting for unrecorded assets turns the eurozone, officially the world's second largest net debtor, into a net creditor. It also reduces the U.S. net debt significantly. The results shed new light on global imbalances and challenge the widespread view that, after a decade of poor-to-rich capital flows, external assets are now in poor countries and debts in rich countries. I provide concrete proposals to improve international investment statistics.
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Date of creation: Mar 2012
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Tax havens ; International investment positions ; Global imbalances;
Other versions of this item:
- Gabriel Zucman, 2013. "The Missing Wealth of Nations: Are Europe and the U.S. net Debtors or net Creditors?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(3), pages 1321-1364.
- F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements
- H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion
- H87 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - International Fiscal Issues; International Public Goods
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ACC-2011-02-19 (Accounting & Auditing)
- NEP-ALL-2011-02-19 (All new papers)
- NEP-CBA-2011-02-19 (Central Banking)
- NEP-CIS-2011-02-19 (Confederation of Independent States)
- NEP-OPM-2011-02-19 (Open Economy Macroeconomic)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Gian-Maria Milesi-Ferretti & Natalia T. Tamirisa & Francesco Strobbe, 2010.
"Bilateral Financial Linkages and Global Imbalances: a View on The Eve of the Financial Crisis,"
IMF Working Papers
10/257, International Monetary Fund.
- Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria & Strobbe, Francesco & Tamirisa, Natalia, 2010. "Bilateral Financial Linkages and Global Imbalances: A View on The Eve of the Financial Crisis," CEPR Discussion Papers 8173, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Valeria Pellegrini & Enrico Tosti, 2012. "In search of lost capital: an estimation of undeclared portfolio assets," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 131, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
- Philip R. Lane, 2011. "The Dynamics of Ireland?s Net External Position," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp388, IIIS.
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