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Taxing Hidden Wealth: The Consequences of U.S. Enforcement Initiatives on Evasive Foreign Accounts

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  • Niels Johannesen
  • Patrick Langetieg
  • Daniel Reck
  • Max Risch
  • Joel Slemrod

Abstract

In 2008, the IRS initiated efforts to curb the use of offshore accounts to evade taxes. This paper uses administrative microdata to examine the impact of the enforcement efforts on taxpayers’ reporting of offshore accounts and income. Enforcement caused approximately 60,000 individuals to disclose offshore accounts with a combined value of around $120 billion. Most disclosures happened outside offshore voluntary disclosure programs by individuals who never admitted prior noncompliance. The disclosed accounts were concentrated in countries whose institutions facilitate tax evasion. The enforcement-driven disclosures increased annual reported capital income by $2.5-$4 billion corresponding to $0.7-$1.0 billion in additional tax revenue.

Suggested Citation

  • Niels Johannesen & Patrick Langetieg & Daniel Reck & Max Risch & Joel Slemrod, 2018. "Taxing Hidden Wealth: The Consequences of U.S. Enforcement Initiatives on Evasive Foreign Accounts," NBER Working Papers 24366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24366
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    2. Menkhoff, Lukas & Miethe, Jakob, 2019. "Tax evasion in new disguise? Examining tax havens' international bank deposits," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 53-78.
    3. 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.
    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.
    5. Johannesen, Niels, 2014. "Tax evasion and Swiss bank deposits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 46-62.
    6. Gabriel Zucman, 2014. "Taxing across Borders: Tracking Personal Wealth and Corporate Profits," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(4), pages 121-148, Fall.
    7. Niels Johannesen & Tim B.M. Stolper, 2021. "The Deterrence Effect of Whistleblowing," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64(4), pages 821-855.
    8. Langenmayr, Dominika, 2017. "Voluntary disclosure of evaded taxes — Increasing revenue, or increasing incentives to evade?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 151(C), pages 110-125.
    9. Alstadsæter, Annette & Johannesen, Niels & Zucman, Gabriel, 2018. "Who owns the wealth in tax havens? Macro evidence and implications for global inequality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 89-100.
    10. Joel Slemrod & Caroline Weber, 2012. "Evidence of the invisible: toward a credibility revolution in the empirical analysis of tax evasion and the informal economy," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 19(1), pages 25-53, February.
    11. Gabriel Zucman, 2013. "The Missing Wealth of Nations: Are Europe and the U.S. net Debtors or net Creditors?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(3), pages 1321-1364.
    12. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Menkhoff, Lukas & Miethe, Jakob, 2019. "Tax evasion in new disguise? Examining tax havens' international bank deposits," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 53-78.
    2. Bayer, Ralph-C. & Hodler, Roland & Raschky, Paul A. & Strittmatter, Anthony, 2020. "Expropriations, property confiscations and new offshore entities: Evidence from the Panama Papers," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 132-152.
    3. Arun Advani & Hannah Tarrant, 2021. "Behavioural responses to a wealth tax," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 42(3-4), pages 509-537, September.
    4. Heinsalu, Sander, 2020. "Reversals of signal-posterior monotonicity imply a bias of screening," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 188(C).
    5. Florian Scheuer & Joel Slemrod, 2021. "Taxing Our Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 35(1), pages 207-230, Winter.
    6. Alstadsæter, Annette & Johannesen, Niels & Le Guern Herry, Ségal & Zucman, Gabriel, 2022. "Tax evasion and tax avoidance," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 206(C).
    7. Leenders, Wouter & Lejour, Arjan & Rabate, Simon & Riet, Maarten van ‘t, 2020. "Offshore Tax Evasion and Wealth Inequality : Evidence from a Tax Amnesty in the Netherlands," Discussion Paper 2020-031, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    8. Reindl, Ilona & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2021. "Equal opportunities for all? How income redistribution promotes support for economic inclusion," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 190(C), pages 390-407.
    9. Spencer Bastani & Daniel Waldenström, 2020. "How Should Capital Be Taxed?," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(4), pages 812-846, September.
    10. 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).
    11. Jørgen Juel Andersen & Niels Johannesen & Bob Rijkers, 2022. "Elite Capture of Foreign Aid: Evidence from Offshore Bank Accounts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 130(2), pages 388-425.
    12. Langenmayr Dominika & Mittermaier Ferdinand, 2021. "Nachhaltiges Wirtschaften, nachhaltig finanziert: Herausforderungen für die Politik in den 2020er Jahren," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, De Gruyter, vol. 22(3), pages 176-190, September.
    13. Leenders, Wouter & Lejour, Arjan & Rabate, Simon & Riet, Maarten van ‘t, 2020. "Offshore Tax Evasion and Wealth Inequality : Evidence from a Tax Amnesty in the Netherlands," Discussion Paper 2020-031, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    14. Matthew Gould & Matthew D. Rablen, 2020. "Voluntary disclosure schemes for offshore tax evasion," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 27(4), pages 805-831, August.
    15. Casi, Elisa & Spengel, Christoph & Stage, Barbara M.B., 2020. "Cross-border tax evasion after the common reporting standard: Game over?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    16. James Alm, 2021. "Tax evasion, technology, and inequality," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 22(4), pages 321-343, December.
    17. David R. Agrawal & William F. Fox, 2021. "Taxing Goods and Services in a Digital Era," National Tax Journal, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74(1), pages 257-301.
    18. David R. Agrawal & Dirk Foremny & Clara Martínez-Toledano, 2020. ""Paraísos fiscales", wealth taxation, and mobility," Working Papers 2020/15, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    19. Agustín Bénétrix & Lorenz Emter & Martin Schmitz, 2021. "Automatic for the (tax) people: information sharing and cross-border investment in tax havens," Trinity Economics Papers tep1321, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
    20. Gabriel Zucman, 2019. "Global Wealth Inequality," NBER Working Papers 25462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Ines Heck & Jakob Kapeller & Rafael Wildauer, 2020. "Vermögenskonzentration in Österreich," Working Paper Reihe der AK Wien - Materialien zu Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 206, Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien, Abteilung Wirtschaftswissenschaft und Statistik.
    22. Heck, Ines & Kapeller, Jakob & Wildauer, Rafael, 2020. "Vermögenskonzentration in Österreich: Ein Update auf Basis des HFCS 2017," Greenwich Papers in Political Economy 30683, University of Greenwich, Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre.
    23. 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.
    24. Johannes Becker & John D. Wilson, 2021. "Tax Competition with Two Tax Instruments - and Tax Evasion," CESifo Working Paper Series 9318, CESifo.

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    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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