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Capital flight and development: An overview of concepts, methods, and data sources

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  • Niels Johannesen
  • Jukka Pirttilä

Abstract

This paper offers a critical review of the methods used to estimate the extent of capital flight and illicit financial flows from developing countries. The largest estimates in the literature are based on imperfect methods with a great margin for error. Emerging new studies have built on approaches that successfully isolate missing capital flows and wealth and attempt to address the causal impact of tax rates on capital flows. The results from these studies indicate that the extent of capital flight from developing countries, while smaller than in earlier estimates, is still a cause for concern.

Suggested Citation

  • Niels Johannesen & Jukka Pirttilä, 2016. "Capital flight and development: An overview of concepts, methods, and data sources," WIDER Working Paper Series 095, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  • Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:wp2016-95
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    File URL: http://www.wider.unu.edu/sites/default/files/wp2016-95.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lensink, Robert & Hermes, Niels & Murinde, Victor, 2000. "Capital flight and political risk," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 73-92, February.
    2. Johannesen, Niels & Larsen, Dan Thor, 2016. "The power of financial transparency: An event study of country-by-country reporting standards," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 120-122.
    3. 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.
    4. Cobham, Alex & Janský, Petr, 2015. "Measuring Misalignment: the Location of US Multinationals’ Economic Activity Versus the Location of their Profits," Working Papers 11202, Institute of Development Studies, International Centre for Tax and Development.
    5. Prichard, Wilson & Cobham, Alex & Goodall, Andrew, 2014. "The ICTD Government Revenue Dataset," Working Papers 10250, Institute of Development Studies, International Centre for Tax and Development.
    6. 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.
    7. Jørgen Juel Andersen & Niels Johannesen & David Dreyer Lassen & Elena Paltseva, 2013. "Petro Rents, Political Institutions, and Hidden Wealth: Evidence from Bank Deposits in Tax Havens," EPRU Working Paper Series 2013-03, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    8. Lane, Philip R. & Milesi-Ferretti, Gian Maria, 2007. "The external wealth of nations mark II: Revised and extended estimates of foreign assets and liabilities, 1970-2004," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 223-250, November.
    9. Anca D. Cristea & Daniel X. Nguyen, 2016. "Transfer Pricing by Multinational Firms: New Evidence from Foreign Firm Ownerships," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 170-202, August.
    10. Claessens, Stijn & Naude, David, 1993. "Recent estimates of capital flight," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1186, The World Bank.
    11. Huizinga, Harry & Laeven, Luc, 2008. "International profit shifting within multinationals: A multi-country perspective," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1164-1182, June.
    12. 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.
    13. Niels Johannesen & Thomas Tørsløv & Ludvig Wier, 2016. "Are less developed countries more exposed to multinational tax avoidance? Method and evidence from micro-data," WIDER Working Paper Series 010, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    14. James B. Davies & Susanna Sandström & Anthony Shorrocks & Edward N. Wolff, 2011. "The Level and Distribution of Global Household Wealth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(551), pages 223-254, March.
    15. James R. Hines & Eric M. Rice, 1994. "Fiscal Paradise: Foreign Tax Havens and American Business," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(1), pages 149-182.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:pubeco:v:162:y:2018:i:c:p:89-100 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:bpj:globdv:v:7:y:2016:i:2:p:18:n:2 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. 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.
    4. Daniel Dujava & Maria Siranova, 2017. "Getting the Measures of Trade Misinvoicing Right: Bilateral Panel Data Approach," Working Papers wp98, Institute of Economic Research, SAS, revised 20 Dec 2017.

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