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Who Owns the Wealth in Tax Havens? Macro Evidence and Implications for Global Inequality

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  • Annette Alstadsæter
  • Niels Johannesen
  • Gabriel Zucman

Abstract

Drawing on newly published macroeconomic statistics, this paper estimates the amount of household wealth owned by each country in offshore tax havens. The equivalent of 10% of world GDP is held in tax havens globally, but this average masks a great deal of heterogeneity—from a few percent of GDP in Scandinavia, to about 15% in Continental Europe, and 60% in Gulf countries and some Latin American economies. We use these estimates to construct revised series of top wealth shares in ten countries, which account for close to half of world GDP. Because offshore wealth is very concentrated at the top, accounting for it increases the top 0.01% wealth share substantially in Europe, even in countries that do not use tax havens extensively. It has considerable effects in Russia, where the vast majority of wealth at the top is held offshore. These results highlight the importance of looking beyond tax and survey data to study wealth accumulation among the very rich in a globalized world.

Suggested Citation

  • Annette Alstadsæter & Niels Johannesen & Gabriel Zucman, 2017. "Who Owns the Wealth in Tax Havens? Macro Evidence and Implications for Global Inequality," NBER Working Papers 23805, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23805
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    1. Bitcoin and Fundamentals
      by Steve Cecchetti and Kim Schoenholtz in Money, Banking and Financial Markets on 2017-12-04 18:12:34

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    Cited by:

    1. Buch-Hansen, Hubert & Koch, Max, 2019. "Degrowth through income and wealth caps?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 160(C), pages 264-271.
    2. Menkhoff, Lukas & Miethe, Jakob, 2019. "Tax evasion in new disguise? Examining tax havens' international bank deposits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 53-78.
    3. Emmanuel Gervais & Pierre Bui Quang, 2019. "How to identify “hidden securities assets” in the Balance of Payments: methods of Bank of France," IFC Bulletins chapters, in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Are post-crisis statistical initiatives completed?, volume 49, Bank for International Settlements.
    4. Casi, Elisa & Spengel, Christoph & Stage, Barbara M. B., 2019. "Cross-border tax evasion after the common reporting standard: Game over?," ZEW Discussion Papers 18-036, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    5. Niels Johannesen & Tim Stolper, 2017. "The Deterrence Effect of Whistleblowing: An Event Study of Leaked Customer Information from Banks in Tax Havens," CESifo Working Paper Series 6784, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Clement Imbert & Maarten Luts & Johannes Spinnewijn & Teodora Tsankova, 2019. "How to Improve Tax Compliance? Evidence from Population-wide Experiments in Belgium," CEP Discussion Papers dp1621, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    7. Andreas Fagereng & Luigi Guiso & Davide Malacrino & Luigi Pistaferri, 2020. "Heterogeneity and Persistence in Returns to Wealth," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 88(1), pages 115-170, January.
    8. Fauser, Hannes, 2019. "On income tax avoidance - the case of Germany revisited," Annual Conference 2019 (Leipzig): 30 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall - Democracy and Market Economy 203550, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    9. Kohnert, Dirk, 2018. "Britain & Africa: heading for the Brexit rocks," MPRA Paper 88554, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 20 Aug 2018.
    10. Spencer Bastani & Daniel Waldenström, 2018. "How Should Capital be Taxed? Theory and Evidence from Sweden," CESifo Working Paper Series 7004, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Katrine Jakobsen & Kristian Jakobsen & Henrik Kleven & Gabriel Zucman, 2018. "Wealth Taxation and Wealth Accumulation: Theory and Evidence from Denmark," NBER Working Papers 24371, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Kirsten Martinus & Thomas Sigler & Iacopo Iacopini & Ben Derudder, 2019. "The role of tax havens and offshore financial centers in Asia-Pacific networks: evidence from firm-subsidiary connections," Asian Business & Management, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 18(5), pages 389-411, November.
    13. Gabriel Zucman, 2019. "Global Wealth Inequality," NBER Working Papers 25462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Lejour, Arjan & Mohlmann, Jan & van't Riet, Maarten & Benschop, Thijs, 2019. "Dutch Shell Companies and International Tax Planning," Discussion Paper 2019-024, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    15. Bastani, Spencer & Waldenström, Daniel, 2018. "How Should Capital Be Taxed? Theory and Evidence from Sweden," CEPR Discussion Papers 12880, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Theine, Hendrik, 2019. "The media coverage of wealth and inheritance taxation in Germany," Department of Economics Working Paper Series 290, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
    17. Atanas Pekanov & Margit Schratzenstaller, 2019. "A Global Financial Transaction Tax. Theory, Practice and Potential Revenues," WIFO Working Papers 582, WIFO.
    18. Alejandro Esteller-Moré & Shafik Hebous & Niels Johannesen & Katarzyna Anna Bilicka, 2018. "The Present and Future of Tax Havens / El presente y futuro de los paraísos fiscales / El present i futur dels paradisos fiscals," IEB Reports ieb_report_4_2018, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    19. Casi, Elisa & Nenadic, Sara & Orlic, Mark Dinko & Spengel, Christoph, 2018. "A call to action: From evolution to revolution on the common reporting standard," ZEW Discussion Papers 18-035, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    20. Kohnert, Dirk, 2018. "Britain and Africa: heading for the Brexit rocks," MPRA Paper 89202, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Sep 2018.
    21. John Guyton & Patrick Langetieg & Daniel Reck & Max Risch & Gabriel Zucman, 2020. "Tax Evasion by the Wealthy: Measurement and Implications," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring and Understanding the Distribution and Intra/Inter-Generational Mobility of Income and Wealth, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. Michal Brzezinski & Katarzyna Sałach & Marcin Wroński, 2019. "Wealth inequality in Central and Eastern Europe: evidence from joined household survey and rich lists’ data," Working Papers 2019-09, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.
    23. David Bradbury & Pierce O’Reilly, 2018. "Inclusive fiscal reform: ensuring fairness and transparency in the international tax system," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 25(6), pages 1434-1448, December.
    24. Niels Johannesen & Tim B.M. Stolper, 2017. "The Deterrence Effect of Whistleblowing – An Event Study of Leaked Customer Information from Banks in Tax Havens," Working Papers tax-mpg-rps-2017-04_2, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance.
    25. Hendrik Theine, 2019. "The media coverage of wealth and inheritance taxation in Germany," Department of Economics Working Papers wuwp290, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance
    • H87 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - International Fiscal Issues; International Public Goods

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