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Behavioral Responses to Wealth Transfer Taxation: Bunching Evidence from Germany

Ulrich Glogowsky

Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change from Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association

Abstract: Increasing inequality in recent decades has triggered a heated debate on whether wealth transfer taxation is an appropriate countermeasure to the perpetuation of inequality. A major factor in making progress in this discussion is understanding how taxpayers respond to incentives generated by wealth transfer taxes. Using administrative tax records from Germany, this paper investigates behavioral responses to a very large transfer tax kink in the inheritance and inter vivos gift tax schedule. We find sharp bunching of taxable inheritances and even larger bunching of taxable inter vivos gifts. However, because the kink is large, the underlying taxable inheritance and gift elasticities are moderate and amount up to 0.11. In line with the notion of accidental bequest models, further evidence suggests that the amount of wealth bequeathed is uncertain. This may explain the small size of the inheritance elasticities. Based on the results, the present paper lends strong support to the hypothesis that wealth transfers are relatively inelastic along the intensive margin in the short term.

JEL-codes: H20 H21 H30 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-eur and nep-pbe
Date: 2016
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