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Tax Evasion and Inequality

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  • Annette Alstadsæter
  • Niels Johannesen
  • Gabriel Zucman

Abstract

Drawing on a unique dataset of leaked customer lists from offshore financial institutions matched to administrative wealth records in Scandinavia, we show that offshore tax evasion is highly concentrated among the rich. The skewed distribution of offshore wealth implies high rates of tax evasion at the top: we find that the 0.01 percent richest households evade about 25 percent of their taxes. By contrast, tax evasion detected in stratified random tax audits is less than 5 percent throughout the distribution. Top wealth shares increase substantially when accounting for unreported assets, highlighting the importance of factoring in tax evasion to properly measure inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Annette Alstadsæter & Niels Johannesen & Gabriel Zucman, 2019. "Tax Evasion and Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(6), pages 2073-2103, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:109:y:2019:i:6:p:2073-2103
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20172043
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • K34 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Tax Law

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