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

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  • OHLSSON, HENRY

Abstract

The objective of this article is to study how people change their behaviour when taxes change. I follow the revenue from gift, inheritance and estate taxes in Sweden over more than a century. Second, I focus on a unique episode during the second half of the 1940s when gifts and gift tax revenue exploded. 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 1942–9 in one county. A first main result is that gifts, inheritances and estates were never important sources of tax revenue. Tax revenue as a share of GDP and total government revenue had already reached peaks in the 1930s. The role of these taxes has instead primarily been equity and to provide integrity for other tax bases. Second, expectations were important. Gift tax revenue during the 1940s started to increase long before a new estate tax and increased wealth taxation were decided and implemented. The increase began even before the legislative process started. Third, economic power and economic control were important. Parents gave to their children to avoid taxes, but only when the expected gain became large enough and in ways that left them with as much economic power as possible.

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  • Ohlsson, Henry, 2011. "The legacy of the Swedish gift and inheritance tax, 1884–2004," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(03), pages 539-569, December.
  • 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 & Waldenström, Daniel, 2015. "Inheritance and wealth inequality: Evidence from population registers," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2015:3, 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. Du Rietz, Gunnar & Henrekson, Magnus & Waldenström, Daniel, 2012. "Swedish Inheritance and Gift Taxation, 1885–2004," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2012:11, Uppsala University, Department of Economics, revised 04 Aug 2015.
    4. Elinder Mikael & Erixson Oscar & Ohlsson Henry, 2012. "The Impact of Inheritances on Heirs' Labor and Capital Income," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-37, December.
    5. Elinder, Mikael & Erixson, Oscar & Escobar, Sebastian & Ohlsson, Henry, 2014. "Estates, bequests, and inheritances in Sweden - A look into the Belinda databases," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2014:14, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    6. Glogowsky, Ulrich, 2016. "Behavioral Responses to Wealth Transfer Taxation: Bunching Evidence from Germany," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145922, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. Ohlsson, Henry & Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2014. "Inherited wealth over the path of development: Sweden, 1810–2010," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2014:7, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    8. Henrekson Magnus & Rietz Gunnar Du, 2014. "The Rise and Fall of Swedish Wealth Taxation," Nordic Tax Journal, Sciendo, vol. 2014(1), pages 9-35, May.
    9. Du Rietz, Gunnar & Henrekson, Magnus, 2014. "Swedish Wealth Taxation (1911–2007)," Working Paper Series 1000, Research Institute of Industrial Economics, revised 10 Sep 2015.
    10. Edoardo Di Porto & Henry Ohlsson, 2016. "Avoiding Taxes by Transfers Within the Family," CSEF Working Papers 436, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    11. repec:spr:jopoec:v:30:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s00148-017-0651-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Kopczuk, Wojciech, 2016. "U.S. capital gains and estate taxation: a status report and directions for a reform," CEPR Discussion Papers 11208, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. Erixson, Oscar, 2014. "Health Responses to a Wealth Shock: Evidence from a Swedish Tax Reform," Working Paper Series 1011, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    14. Magnus Henrekson & Daniel Waldenström, 2016. "Inheritance taxation in Sweden, 1885–2004: the role of ideology, family firms, and tax avoidance," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(4), pages 1228-1254, November.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-

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