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Behavioural responses to the (re)introduction of wealth taxes. Evidence from Spain

Author

Listed:
  • José María Durán-Cabré

    (Universitat de Barcelona, Institut d’Economia de Barcelona (IEB))

  • Alejandro Esteller-Moré

    (Universitat de Barcelona, Institut d’Economia de Barcelona (IEB))

  • Mariona Mas-Montserrat

    (Universitat de Barcelona, Institut d’Economia de Barcelona (IEB))

Abstract

In the throes of economic crisis, the Spanish government decided to reintroduce the Wealth Tax, appealing to redistributive motives and its need for greater revenues. This paper studies how individuals reacted to the reintroduction of this tax by drawing on the universe of wealth tax returns submitted to the Catalan Tax Agency between 2011 and 2015. Thus, we exploit the variation in treatment exposure to analyse taxpayers' responses, in terms not only of wealth accumulation, but also of the potential avoidance strategies adopted. Indeed, our results reflect avoidance rather than real responses. They show that while facing higher wealth taxes did not have a negative effect on taxpayers' savings, it did encourage them to change their asset and income composition to take advantage of wealth tax exemptions (mostly business-related) and the existence of a limit on wealth tax liability. This translates into an elasticity of taxable wealth with respect to the net-of-tax rate of return of 0.64, or, put differently, a 0.1 percentage point increase in the average wealth tax rate leads to a reduction in taxable wealth of 3.24% over 4 years. Overall, these avoidance responses are quite marked in terms of tax revenues: they represent a 4-year accumulated revenue loss of 2.6 times the 2011 estimated wealth tax revenues. The existence of such responses mostly related to the design of the wealth tax has relevant policy implications not only in terms of revenues but also insofar as it undermines the tax's redistributive role.

Suggested Citation

  • José María Durán-Cabré & Alejandro Esteller-Moré & Mariona Mas-Montserrat, 2019. "Behavioural responses to the (re)introduction of wealth taxes. Evidence from Spain," Working Papers 2019/04, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  • Handle: RePEc:ieb:wpaper:doc2019-04
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Marc Morgan & Pedro Carvalho Junior, 2021. "Taxing wealth: general principles, international perspectives and lessons for Brazil," Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, Center of Political Economy, vol. 41(1), pages 44-64.
    2. Thor O. Thoresen & Marius A. K. Ring & Odd E. Nygård & Jon Epland, 2021. "A wealth tax at work," Discussion Papers 960, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    3. Marius Brülhart & Jonathan Gruber & Matthias Krapf & Kurt Schmidheiny, 2016. "Taxing Wealth: Evidence from Switzerland," CESifo Working Paper Series 5966, CESifo.
    4. Florian Scheuer & Joel Slemrod, 2021. "Taxing Our Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 35(1), pages 207-230, Winter.
    5. David Gallusser & Matthias Krapf, 2022. "Joint Income-Wealth Inequality: Evidence from Lucerne Tax Data," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 163(1), pages 251-295, August.
    6. Moore, Rachel & Pecoraro, Brandon, 2021. "Quantitative Analysis of a Wealth Tax in the United States: Exclusions, Evasion, and Expenditures," MPRA Paper 109120, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Arun Advani & Hannah Tarrant, 2021. "Behavioural responses to a wealth tax," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 42(3-4), pages 509-537, September.
    8. Hinrichsen, Julius & Nitt-Drießelmann, Dörte & Wellenreuther, Claudia & Wolf, André, 2021. "Der Eigentumsbegriff in den Parteiprogrammen zur Bundestagswahl 2021: Eine ökonomische Analyse," HWWI Policy Papers 133, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
    9. Marius Brülhart & Jonathan Gruber & Matthias Krapf & Kurt Schmidheiny, 2022. "Behavioral Responses to Wealth Taxes: Evidence from Switzerland," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 111-150, November.
    10. Kristoffer Berg & Shafik Hebous, 2021. "Does A Wealth Tax Improve Equality of Opportunity?," CESifo Working Paper Series 9174, CESifo.
    11. David Gallusser & Matthias Krapf, 2019. "Joint Income-Wealth Inequality: An Application Using Administrative Tax Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 7876, CESifo.
    12. Marius Brülhart & Jonathan Gruber & Matthias Krapf & Kurt Schmidheiny, 2022. "Behavioral Responses to Wealth Taxes: Evidence from Switzerland," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 111-150, November.
    13. Advani, Arun & Tarrant, Hannah, 2021. "Behavioural responses to a wealth tax," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 577, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    14. Juliana Londoño-Vélez & Javier Ávila-Mahecha, 2021. "Enforcing Wealth Taxes in the Developing World: Quasi-experimental Evidence from Colombia," American Economic Review: Insights, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 131-148, June.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Spanish wealth tax; behavioural responses to taxation; elasticity of taxable wealth; tax avoidance and evasion;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • 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

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