A Harmonized Net Wealth Tax in the European Union

While taxes on wealth for a long time played only a marginal role in the public finance and taxation literature, the increase of wealth inequality and concentration in many EU countries has spurred new interest in wealth taxation. At the same time, recurrent net wealth taxes have almost completely disappeared in Europe, inter alia due to fears of asset and taxpayer migration. The paper provides estimates of the revenue that could be raised from an EU-wide net wealth tax enabling the containment of migration responses, using data from the Household, Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS). To account for differential non-response, we augment the HFCS with data from the Forbes rich list as well as national rich lists and replace the top tail of the wealth distribution according to the HFCS by an estimated Pareto distributed top tail. To account for underreporting we scale aggregate financial assets in the HFCS to match their counterparts outlined in the National Accounts. We estimate that a moderately progressive net wealth tax levied at a rate of 1 percent on net wealth between 1 and 5 million €, and 1.5 percent on wealth above 5 million €, could raise between 165 and 177 billion € after accounting for avoidance and evasion responses. Such an EU harmonised net wealth tax would affect only a small fraction of households, ranging between 0.41 percent in Latvia and 8.65 percent in Belgium.