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October 12, 2020

Offshore Tax Evasion and Wealth Inequality: Evidence from a Tax Amnesty in the Netherlands

Publication

As long as there have been taxes, people have tried to avoid and evade them. Interest in these phenomena has been fueled by the effects on public revenues, as well as on the distribution of wealth and income. One prominent example of tax evasion is the hiding of wealth and income in tax havens. According to estimates by Zucman (2013), 8% of global financial wealth, or $5.9 trillion, is held in tax havens. During the global financial crisis of the late 2000s, the G20 countries vowed to tackle offshore tax evasion and proclaimed the end of the “era of banking secrecy”. In recent years, leaks containing confidential information from financial institutions as well as academic research investigating leaks and tax amnesties have confirmed the popular narrative that tax evasion is concentrated among the wealthiest in society (Alstadsæter, Johannesen and Zucman, 2018, 2019). This does not only affect public revenues, but also the measurement of wealth and income inequality.