Florian Scheuer, 19 November 2020


Over the past decades, many developed countries have experienced considerable increases in income and wealth inequality, led by an extraordinary concentration among the very richest swath of households. This has focused policy attention on the superrich. Various political and economic arguments for at least partially offsetting this rise in inequality have been put forward.

In this video from the UBS Center, Florian Scheuer presents ideas from a new paper that provides an overview of the tax situation the superrich currently face and evaluates various reform proposals.

Florian Scheuer has also co-authored a CEPR Discussion Paper on the subject with Joel Slemrod: DP13962 Taxation and the Superrich

Antoine Bozio, Bertrand Garbinti, Jonathan Goupille-Lebret, Malka Guillot, Thomas Piketty, 18 November 2020

How much can redistribution policies account for long-run changes in inequality? This column reveals that the reduction of inequality implied by redistribution is significant in France and the US and increased throughout the entire 20th century, but pre-tax income inequality appears to be the main factor accounting for the differential levels and trends in the two countries. These findings suggest that policy discussions on inequality should pay more attention to policies affecting pre-tax inequality and should not focus exclusively on redistribution.

Spencer Bastani, Daniel Waldenström, 09 November 2020

How should capital be taxed in advanced economies? This column presents a survey of the recent literature on optimal capital taxation and empirical studies on the distortionary effects of capital taxes. It provides specific analyses for taxes on wealth, property, inheritance, personal capital income, and corporate profits. Its overall conclusion is that capital taxation is part of an optimal tax system, but not all capital taxes strike a balance between optimality and administrative feasibility.

Isabela Manelici, Smaranda Pantea, 08 November 2020

Industrial policies can be an effective tool for governments to shape the development of different sectors to achieve productivity growth. But there is little evidence of their effectiveness or efficiency. This column examines the impact of an income tax break for IT workers in Romania. The findings suggest that targeted policies of this kind can boost key sectors. This finding is encouraging in terms of the ability of governments to design and implement effective industrial policies. 

Brian Nolan, Juan C. Palomino, Philippe Van Kerm, Salvatore Morelli, 19 September 2020

Whether and how much intergenerational transfers contribute to wealth inequality is still subject to debate. This column analyses household survey data on inheritance and gifts inter vivos in France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the US to relate current household wealth levels and inequality to the receipt of intergenerational wealth transfers. In these countries, large transfers increase overall wealth inequality. Strengthening taxation capacity and instating lifetime capital acquisitions tax for gifts and inheritances may help counter the dis-equalising effect of intergenerational transfers.

Dina Pomeranz, 14 February 2020

Evidence from Chile shows how the value-added tax (VAT) can facilitate tax enforcement by generating paper trails on transactions between firms.

Lucie Gadenne, Roland Rathelot, 03 February 2020

VAT may act to segment firm-to-firm trade in developing economies into VAT-paying and non-VAT-paying networks. This column presents evidence of this from India and argues that the higher the rate of VAT, the greater the effect. This segmentation decreases the output of non-VAT-paying firms, whose sourcing choices have been distorted by VAT, by between 7% and 10%.

Piritta Sorsa, Jens Arnold, Paula Garda, 13 January 2020

Economic growth in Latin America has been persistently lower and more erratic than the emerging economies of Asia, largely due to low productivity borne out of both weak competition and a large informal economy. This column analyses the various factors that have caused these conditions to exist in several Latin American countries, and how policies to counteract them have fared. For significant progress, a detailed strategy of simplifying regulations, easing administrative burdens, encouraging market entry, and reducing trade barriers is required to formalise workers and encourage market competition.

Marius Brülhart, Jonathan Gruber, Matthias Krapf, Kurt Schmidheiny, 23 December 2019

Wealth taxes are in vogue, and academic research on the subject is picking up. Recent studies have produced widely diverging estimates of the elasticity of the wealth tax base. Some of this is due to methodological differences. This column analyses wealth taxes in Swiss cantons and shows that jurisdiction size and enforcement also play a role. When applied at the sub-national level and without third-party reporting, wealth taxes are particularly easily avoided.

António Henriques, Nuno Palma, 10 December 2019

The decline of countries such as Castile and Portugal, which first benefited from access to the New World, relative to their followers, especially England and the Netherlands, is often attributed to the quality of the Iberian countries’ institutions at the time Atlantic trade opened. This column questions this narrative by comparing Iberian and English institutional quality over time, considering the frequency and nature of parliamentary meetings, the frequency and intensity of extraordinary taxation and coin debasement, and real interest spreads for public debt. It finds no evidence that the political institutions of Iberia were worse until at least 1650.

James Poterba, Lawrence H. Summers, 25 September 2019

Martin Feldstein, who passed away in June 2019, was one of the most important applied economists of the last half-century. This column, by two of his students and close colleagues, celebrates his intellectual legacy, outlining his seminal contributions on a wide range of topics in public economics and beyond, his pioneering use of large data sets, and his influential voice in US public policy over many decades. As president of the National Bureau of Economic Research for nearly 30 years, Feldstein advanced the conduct and dissemination of economic research, and helped to create the modern economics profession.

Walter Scheidel, 02 September 2019

World War II sharply reduced income and wealth inequality in many countries. This column, part of a Vox debate on the economics of WWII, describes how various factors converged to produce this outcome. Mass mobilisation raised demand for labour and reduced skill premiums, extremely high marginal tax rates cut into elite incomes and fortunes, aggressive government intervention curtailed corporate and investment profits and sought to protect workers, consumers, and renters. Returns of capital fell as international markets suffered interruptions and physical assets risked confiscation or destruction. Communist regimes expanded their reach. In market economies, the war experience promoted reforms regarding social welfare, unionisation and taxation that sustained several decades of greater equality.

Joel Slemrod, Obeid Ur Rehman, Mazhar Waseem, 15 May 2019

Governments typically seek to reduce tax evasion by increasing the odds of catching tax evaders or by raising the punishments. Using social and psychological motivations may offer another approach to promoting tax compliance. This column analyses two Pakistani initiatives – public disclosure of income taxes and a recognition-and-rewards programme for top taxpayers – and shows that, to the extent that they are effective in influencing private and social behaviour, they potentially offer a cost-effective complement to standard tax-evasion measures. 

Jean Hindriks, Valerio Serse, 19 April 2019

Alcohol tax pass-through can vary substantially across products, but it also depends on the location of stores. This column examines retail prices of six major brands of spirits in Belgium after a tax reform, and finds evidence that the impact on prices varied across regions. These variations depended on the intensity of local competition and, to a lesser extent, proximity to national borders. 

Al Slivinski, Nathan Sussman, 20 March 2019

The problem of tax compliance is as old as the levying of taxes. Innovations in tax administration that induce high compliance rates at reasonable cost are extremely important to governments. This column demonstrates how the taille, a tax collection mechanism from medieval Paris, raised compliance by turning the social cost of tax evasion into a private one. It offers a tax collection model that is still relevant to governments today.

Rafael Ch, Jacob Shapiro, Abbey Steele, Juan F. Vargas, 29 January 2019

It is widely accepted that war between states can lead to increased fiscal capacity. Yet, there is no similarly clear, historically consistent accounting of how civil wars have affected state capacity and tax revenues. Using recent evidence from Colombia, this column shows that municipalities affected by internal conflict have tax institutions consistent with the preferences of the parties that have managed to inflict more violence in the past. Internal armed conflict can help interest groups capture municipal institutions for their own private benefit, impeding state-building.

Jukka Pirttilä, Pia Rattenhuber, 02 January 2019

Jukka Pirttilä and Pia Rattenhuber of UNU-WIDER discuss what the last decade of research at the institute tells us about taxation.

Ufuk Akcigit, 23 November 2018

Firms like to be politically connected, because it makes it easier for them to do business. But is it good for the rest of us? Ufuk Akcigit of the University of Chicago tells Tim Phillips about the consequences of connecting to power.

Alexander Bick, Bettina Brüggemann, Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Hannah Paule-Paludkiewicz, 15 November 2018

The extent to which tax policies influence the amount of labour that private households supply has been at the centre of many public policy debates. Within married couples, joint versus separate taxation may be one factor that contributes to differences in household labour supply. This column uses a model that closely reproduces the changes in married women’s labour supply in the US and Europe between the early 1980s and 2016 to show that taxes are indeed a major factor shaping the labour supply of married women.

Jozef Konings, Cathy Lecocq, Bruno Merlevede, 17 October 2018

Many countries have reduced their corporate income tax rates or introduced tax deductions, exclusions, and credits to attract foreign direct investment. This column discusses the introduction of the Notional Interest Deduction in Belgium, which allows companies to deduct from their taxable income an interest that is calculated based on the company’s equity. The deduction has increased employment in Belgian affiliates of multinational enterprises by between 6% and 8%.


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