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Capital Levies: A Step Towards Improving Public Finances in Europe

Listed author(s):
  • Stefan Bach

Ever since the financial and economic crisis of 2008/2009, public debt in almost all OECD countries has increased significantly. The European debt crisis has further intensified over the past few weeks. Private households with high levels of wealth and income could be enlisted to help with refinancing and reducing this public debt through forced loans and one-off capital levies, without a risk of slowdown in consumer demand. This would also counteract the increased inequality in the distribution of wealth. Imposing such levies is not easy, however, since it involves valuation of assets and preventing tax avoidance and evasion. It is difficult to estimate the revenue effects of such a levy for the countries in crisis due to the current lack of sufficient data. For Germany, simulations by DIW Berlin based on a personal allowance of 250 000 euros (500 000 euros for married couples) give a tax base of 92 percent of the GDP. A forced loan or a levy of, for example, ten percent of this tax base could thus mobilize just over nine percent of the GDP-around 230 billion euros. This would affect the richest eight percent of the adult population. It would presumably also be possible to generate considerable revenue in the European crisis countries in the same way. This would be an important step towards consolidation of public finances, and would facilitate reforms to promote growth.

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Article provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its journal DIW Economic Bulletin.

Volume (Year): 2 (2012)
Issue (Month): 8 ()
Pages: 3-11

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Handle: RePEc:diw:diwdeb:2012-8-1
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