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

Listed author(s):
  • Annette Alstadsæter
  • Niels Johannesen
  • Gabriel Zucman

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23805.

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Date of creation: Sep 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23805
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  1. Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2014. "Long run trends in the distribution of income and wealth," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2014:5, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  2. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2016. "Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States," NBER Working Papers 22945, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Niels Johannesen & Gabriel Zucman, 2014. "The End of Bank Secrecy? An Evaluation of the G20 Tax Haven Crackdown," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 65-91, February.
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  14. Facundo Alvaredo & Salvatore Morelli & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2017. "Top wealth shares in the UK over more than a century," Working Papers 2017:01, Department of Economics, University of Venice "Ca' Foscari".
  15. Thomas Piketty & Gabriel Zucman, 2014. "Capital is Back: Wealth-Income Ratios in Rich Countries 1700–2010," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(3), pages 1255-1310.
  16. Boyce, James K., 1992. "The revolving door? External debt and capital flight: A Philippine case study," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 335-349, March.
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