A spate of massive leaks showing the inner-workings of global tax evasion has given the public a window into how the super-wealthy—including celebrities, politicians, and criminals—leverage the globalization of finance to hide their wealth from the authorities.
But the leaks, which encompass just one Panamanian law firm, Mossak Fonseca, and one Swiss bank, HSBC Switzerland, offer only a small peek at these illicit flows. Can we use this data to make a general observation about the prevalence of tax avoidance?
Economists Annette Alstadsæter, Niels Johannesen, and Gabriel Zucman have taken the data (pdf) from the two leaks and combined them with unusually detailed income and wealth records in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark to estimate the size and scope of tax evasion. Adding these additional sources to the mix has allowed the researchers to make up for the consistent problems of random national audits. These audits fail to effectively measure the